Sept. 10 (UPI) — Nearly 100 fires are burning throughout the western United States on Wednesday, destroying hundreds of homes and prompting waves of evacuations.
The National Interagency Fire Center said that 96 large fires have burned more than 3.4 million acres on Wednesday, up from 79 the day prior, including blazes that have burned tens of thousands of acres in Oregon, California and Washington.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared during a press conference Wednesday that the communities of Detroit, Blue River, Vida Phoenix and Talent have been “substantially destroyed” with hundreds of homes lost as more than 300,000 acres in the state have burned.
“I want to be upfront in saying that we expect to see a great deal of loss both in structures and in human lives,” she said. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.”
Brown added that Oregonians must be “on high alert” for fire conditions such as dry air, dry bush and hot wind even in areas of the state that are not immediately threatened by the wildfires.
In response to the blazes, Brown invoked a fire conflagration act for the entire state and directed the Office of Emergency Management to request a federal emergency declaration.
“These free up resources for response efforts: power generation, search and rescue and more,” she said.
Nancy Bush, director of Clackamas County’s disaster management department, said the county has issued 35 evacuation orders since Tuesday in response to four wildfires in the area.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said 28 major wildfires are currently burning throughout as more than 2.5 million acres have been scorched this year, resulting in eight deaths and destroying 3,700 structures.
One of the newest blazes in California, the Creek Fire, has burned 136,138 acres and destroyed 360 structures in Fresno County, Cal Fire said.
Fresno County sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Pursell said Tuesday that at least 30,000 people in the county have been evacuated.
The U.S. Forest Service announced the closure of all 18 national forests in the state on Wednesday, citing the “unprecedented” fire conditions.
“The number of large fires and extreme fire behavior we are seeing across the state is historic,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore. “These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that National Forest visitors can recreate safely.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday visited the site of the Sumner Grade Fire where he said Eastside Fire Chief Bud Backer told him he had “never seen a fire explode like this one in his 33 years of service.”
The Sumner Grade Fire has burned 800 acres, destroying four homes and causing thousands of people to evacuate.
Inslee also said that 330,000 acres have been burned throughout the state in total so far.
“I just can’t reiterate,” he said. “We think almost all of these fires were human-caused, in some dimension. If you can avoid being outside for anything that would even cause a spark, I hope people can avoid those conditions.”
The Whitman’s County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday said that 80% of homes and structures including the fire station, post office and city hall in the town of Malden were destroyed by flames.