Wildfires leaving behind nothing but ash have devastated communities across California, Washington state and Oregon.
In northwest Oregon, two people were killed as a result of the wildfires in Marion County.
“We also fear that this is not going to be the only folks we’ll find deceased up there,” Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast said Tuesday.
Parts of the county are still under a state of emergency as a fire that started last month continues to grow, now having ravaged more than 130,000 acres. The state’s governor said the human lives and properties lost by the wildfires could be the “greatest” in Oregon’s history, adding several towns across the state are destroyed.
In Jackson County, Sheriff Nathan Sickler said one body had been recovered near where the Almeda Fire started. The sheriff said there could be more deaths, as many county residents refused to evacuate.
In Washington state’s Cold Springs Fire, a child died from the flames, state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. Two of the child’s relatives are both in intensive care in a Seattle hospital and suffering from burns, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
And in California, which has seen more than 2.5 million acres destroyed by fires, police are working to recover the remains of three people who died in the racing North Complex Fire.
Hundreds could be out of their homes for weeks
The Creek Fire, that has destroyed about 360 structures in Central California, has now grown to more than 166,000 acres and remains 0% contained, fire officials said.
Authorities say they’ll now be using new technology aboard their aircrafts to help them look for people who may still be out in the mountains and safely escort them out, Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputy Lieutenant Brandon Pursell announced Wednesday. There have already been hundreds of rescues from the flames. About 385 people and 27 animals were airlifted by helicopter in the past several days after getting trapped by the fire in the Sierra National Forest, Col. David Hall told CNN.
At least 30,000 people have been evacuated due to the fire. But the repopulation process is likely to be a long one, Pursell said.
“It’s going to be probably a couple weeks, just be patient with us,” Pursell said.
On Wednesday, all 18 national forests in the state were ordered closed due to the “explosive growth” of wildfires, a notice from forest service officials said. Those temporary closures encompass more than 20 million acres of land.
“The number of large fires and extreme fire behavior we are seeing across the State is historic,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore. “I ask all Californians and visitors to take these closures and evacuations seriously for their own safety.”
Worst fire conditions in decades
Fires in Oregon have turned neighborhoods in the state to rubble.
Moyle’s home was destroyed by the Santiam Fire — originally named the Beachie Creek Fire — and her family was able to escape after a sudden phone call from a concerned neighbor. When they returned Wednesday morning, they sifted through the charred remains of their home and were only able to recover several small items.
Gov. Kate Brown said in a Wednesday news conference more than 300,000 acres have burned across the state and for the parts that aren’t yet on fire, “the worst fire conditions in three decades persist.”
Brown said she’s directed the Office of Emergency Management to request a federal emergency declaration.
‘It was like a blow torch’
“In Western Washington, the old rule of thumb used to be if it was 20% you got out of the way because you were expecting erratic fire behavior,” East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer said, according to the station. “But with homes in the way, we didn’t have that luxury.”
“When it hit, it was like a blow torch,”
In a Twitter post, Gov. Jay Inslee said the fire chief said he hadn’t seen a fire explode like this one “in his 33 years of service.
CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Tina Burnside and Sarah Moon contributed to this report.