Wildfires and Smoke Wreak Havoc in Oregon and Washington

Click here to watch the west coast burn.

Oregon and Washington are caught in the grip of uncontrolled fires that are causing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate on short notice.  Indeed, as The Washington Post described it in a headline, “Much of the West Is On Fire, Illustrating the Dangers of Climate Extremes.”  And that is not an exaggeration — The Post reported that on Tuesday “red-flag warnings signaling a high fire-threat stretched along the entire West Coast from the U.S. border with Mexico to Canada, including much of California and Nevada, western Oregon and Washington, along with western Arizona and southern Utah.”  Millions of Americans are now dealing with wildfires impairing their air quality — putting at-risk children, the elderly, COVID patients, and asthma sufferers.

Why This Matters:  Did we mention that fire season has not even officially begun yet?  We always connect the dots between the severity of the fires we are seeing now and climate change, but lots of media outlets do not.  And that is a problem, as numerous environmental reporters and media watchdogs have pointed out.  This is our future on a heated planet and we need government action and leadership at the federal level.  Fires don’t respect state borders any more than viruses.  

Oregon and Washington Burning

The Associated Press reported late last night that “windblown wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest destroyed hundreds of homes in Oregon, the governor said Wednesday, warning it could be the greatest loss of life and property from wildfire in state history.”  Gusts of 50 mph are making it difficult for firefighters to control the blazes.  And this is happening in the part of the country known for being cold and wet.  In fact, the fires are so bad that the precise extent of damage was unclear because so many of the fire zones were too dangerous to survey – they simply cannot get to them, Oregon Deputy State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple told the AP.

Doug Grafe, chief of Fire Protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry said,   “We do not have a context for this amount of fire on the landscape,” he said. “Seeing them run down the canyons the way they have — carrying tens of miles in one period of an afternoon and not slowing down in the evening – (there is) absolutely no context for that in this environment.”

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington after touring damaged areas said, “This is an extraordinary series of events we have suffered,” Inslee said. “The low humidity, the high temperatures, the winds have all combined to stymie some of the most aggressive firefighting activities of our courageous firefighters.”  In just the last couple of days in Washington state, more than 480,000 acres have burned.

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