Deadly wildfires rage in California, Oregon and Washington

The skyline in the distance behind Crissy Field is barely visible with smoke from wildfires Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
'It looks like the apocalypse:' See wildfire smoke turn San Francisco's sky orange
01:20 - Source: CNN

What we know so far

  • Massive wildfires burning on the West Coast have killed at least seven people.
  • California: While firefighters get closer to containing some of the blazes, several new fires ignited Wednesday and are being fanned by strong winds
  • Washington: More acres were burned in the state Monday than were charred in the past 12 fire seasons, Gov. Jay Inslee said.
  • Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown said 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.”

Our live coverage of the fires burning across the West Coast has ended for the day.

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Video shows Sierra Nevada mountains in California shrouded in smoke

Phillip Bergman was flying from Dallas to his home in Fresno, California, on Thursday when he looked out the window and saw smoke from the Creek Fire over the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Bergman, who works in video production, said he’s used to flying over the mountain range, but it doesn’t usually look this way.

“It was very strange and sad to see the mountain range shrouded in all that smoke,” Bergman wrote. “I like to hike a lot so going up into the mountains is a lot of fun for me, and now that it’s all burning down, things won’t be the way they use to be for quite a while.”


At least eight dead in West Coast fires

The unprecedented wildfires that continue to cause havoc on the West Coast have claimed the lives of at least eight people.

According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, authorities discovered one fatality Wednesday in the burn area near Happy Camp, California.

The Slater Fire is burning in that area. 

Camp for kids with cancer damaged in California wildfire

A woodsy getaway camp for kids with cancer has been damaged in Northern California.

The Okizu Camp for pediatric cancer patients and their families is yet another casualty of the wildfires scarring California as the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex, burned through the area. 

“We are heartbroken to let you know that we were notified today that there has been significant fire damage to our beloved Camp Okizu at Berry Creek,” Executive Director Suzie Randall posted on the organization’s website.

Camp Okizu hosts about 700 kids each year, along with their siblings and parents, giving them a respite from hospitals and doctor appointments. It is not yet clear if anything is left of the camp, which had a large lodge, 32 cabins, an extensive ropes course, and an infirmary to care for campers undergoing chemotherapy or those that might need blood draws.

Board Member Hanna Malak has been visiting the camp since he was eight years old, when his older brother had leukemia.

“There are definitely a lot of memories made there, but the magic of Okizu is the people,” Malak said.

“It is devastating,” Malak said of the destruction. “I think I’m going through the stages of loss and feel like I’m still in denial. It’s still hard to believe, but we are staying positive and are especially thankful no one was hurt.” 

The threat of Covid-19 among a population of campers with compromised immune systems has left the camp empty during what would otherwise be a busy summer season.

“Our hearts have been in our throats all day, and we’ve been following every news report, hoping against hope for a miracle,” the organization said in a news release. “There is nothing we can possibly say except that Okizu is a family, and as in any family, it is the people who matter most. We each carry Okizu within us, and that is something no fire can destroy.”

More than 100 fires are still burning in the West

The wildfires in the West are continuing to rage and burn more acreage.

There are now 102 active large wildfires burning in the US, according to the latest data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

So far, 4,350,558 acres have now burned from these fires, the NIFC said.

Nearly 900,000 acres have burned in Oregon wildfires

The Holiday Farm fire is seen burning in the mountains around McKenzie Bridge, Oregon on September 9.

Oregon is “now approaching 900,000 acres burned across the state,” Gov. Kate Brown said during today’s news conference.

For perspective, Brown noted in the last 10 years, the state sees an average of 500,000 acres burned in an entire year.

“We know there are fire-related fatalities,” Brown said.

She said as soon as they could provide “confirmed information” on the fatalities, they would do so.

Brown added that approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Oregonians have evacuated.

More than 3 million acres have burned in California

Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, California, on Wednesday, September 9. The blaze, part of the lightning-sparked North Complex, expanded at a critical rate of spread as winds buffeted the region.

More than 3.1 million acres, twice the size of Delaware, have burned in California and 12 people have died as a result of the wildfires ravaging the state, according to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) news release.

“This year’s fire season has been a record-breaking year, in not only the total amount of acres burned, but six of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred in 2020,” Cal Fire said.

Fires have destroyed more than 3,900 structures. At least 14,000 firefighters are battling 29 major fires up and down the state. 

The August Complex Fire in Tehama County took the top spot in the state’s list of largest wildfires, clocking in at 471,185 acres. It is 24% contained.

At least five of the state’s largest fires are active.  

The massive North Complex Fire, an amalgamation of blazes, including the Bear fire, is 247,358 acres and 23% contained. The blaze is ninth in the state’s largest wildfires list. Three people are dead as a result of the fire, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea announced last night, and at least a dozen are missing.

Parts of the city of Oroville are under evacuation orders while a portion of the town of Paradise, ravaged by the devastating 2018 Camp Fire, is under evacuation warnings.

The Creek Fire in Central California has scorched 175,893 acres and continues to burn out of control. The fire destroyed at least 361 structures and threatens over 14,000. The temperature is expected to return to seasonal averages with low humidity today.

The Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest is 23,890 acres and firefighters have no containment. The blaze started Sunday and the cause is still under investigation. L.A. County foothill communities including Pasadena, Duarte, and Monrovia are under an evacuation warning.

The El Dorado Fire, sparked by a gender reveal mishap this weekend, consumed 12,610 acres in San Bernardino County and is 23% contained.

What you need to know about the wildfires in Washington

Smoke rises from a hillside burned by a wildfire, Tuesday, September 8, near Sumner, Washington.

Wildfires are raging across the West Coast, with several of them are burning in Washington state.

Here are the latest updates from the Evergreen State:

  • Evacuations and destruction: The Sumner Grade Fire, just outside Tacoma, Washington, burned several homes and prompted hundreds of evacuations, CNN affiliate KOMO reported. On Wednesday, it was about 20% contained, the news station reported.
  • Most explosive fire in three decades: East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer is overseeing firefighters tackling the Sumner Grade Fire. 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. Climate change is making these fires more frequent, more expensive and far more dangerous,” the governor wrote.
  • At least one death: Of the seven people killed in the wildfires across the West Coast, one of them is a child in Washington state who was killed in the Cold Springs Fire, officials said Wednesday.

There are at least 37 active fires in Oregon

The state of Oregon now has 37 active fires and at least 672,806 have burned, according to Oregon Office of Emergency Management Public Information Officer, Paula Negele.  

Damage from the fires have gotten so bad, Portland General Electric has stopped providing estimates of power restoration, according to their website.  

“Due to the volume of outages, it is difficult for us to accurately estimate a restoration time for each individual home or location. We understand this is frustrating and we appreciate your patience. We’ll update this information as we make our assessments and crews respond to each location,” their website said Thursday. 

The state of Oregon had 68,444 households without power as of 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday, according to

Catch up on the latest wildfire updates from Oregon

Heather Marshall talks to her mother as she stands by the ruins of her home at Coleman Creek Estates mobile home park in Phoenix, Oregon, Thursday, September 10, after a wildfire swept through. The Marshalls lived at the park for 21 years.

Wildfires are raging from California to Washington today, creating dangerous conditions and prompting evacuations along the Pacific Coast.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown warned residents that the current blazes could create the “greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.”

Here’s what we know so far about the wildfires in Oregon:

  • Almost half a million acres burned: Nearly 50 active wildfires in Oregon have consumed more than 470,000 acres across the state, according to the state’s office of emergency management. Hundreds of homes and parts of several communities have been destroyed.
  • At least 3 dead: Three people were killed in fires in Oregon, including two in Marion County and one in Jackson 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.
  • 0% containment in one fire: Officials originally thought the Santiam Fire, initially called the Beachie Creek Fire, would likely grow to less than 500 acres, but a “historic” windstorm Monday fanned the flames and the blaze grew to more than 131,000 acres in a night. The fire has now burned more than 158,000 acres and is 0% contained.

A wildfire in Northern California is the biggest in the state's history

While dozens of wildfires are burning across California, the August Complex Fire — currently raging in Northern California — has become the largest wildfire in state history.

Nearly 500,000 acres have burned in the Mendocino National Forest east of Redding and Chico, an area equal to about 736 square miles.

The August Complex was initially 37 separate fires that ignited from a lightning storm on Aug. 17. Many of those smaller fires merged to create larger complex. Containment is currently estimated at 24%. 

Three fires currently burning in the state are in the top five of California’s all-time list:

August Complex in Mendocino, Tehema, Lake and Glenn Counties (currently burning) Mendocino Complex in Mendocino, Lake, Colusa and Glenn Counties (2018) SCU Lightning Complex in Santa Clara County (currently burning) LNU Lightning Complex in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties (currently burning) Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties (2017)

The US West Coast has the worst air quality in the world right now

Early morning satellite images from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveal that the wildfire smoke continues to blanket most of the US West Coast Thursday morning.

Because of this, the air quality remains moderate to even hazardous across this region, including in all major cities on the West Coast. 

Hazardous air quality — which are areas with Air Quality Index (AQI) values of PM2.5 pollution well above the hazardous level of 300 — are being reported across the region. Some locations have readings reaching over 600.

These values constitute the worst air quality readings anywhere in the world at this moment, according to monitoring services such as Purple Air and AQICN.

Keep in mind that AQI may not account for larger particles such as ash, says the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

More detailed images show that the smoke is settling in and not moving out of the area anytime soon, meaning the smoke will be around Thursday and into the weekend. 

As the winds begin to shift today through this weekend, some of the smoke will move further inland. 

You can check the current air quality in your location here 

Here are the latest updates on the wildfires in California

Firefighters watch the Bear Fire approach in Oroville, California, on September 9.

Wildfires are burning across the the US’s West Coast today.

If you’re just reading in now, here’s where the situation stands in California:

  • More than two dozen fires: More than 14,000 firefighters are battling 28 fires across the Golden State, according to the California Department of Fires and Forestry Protection.
  • At least 3 dead: Officials said they are working to recover the remains of three people who died in Butte County in the North Complex Fires.
  • Up from last year, thanks to climate change: Statewide, more than 2.5 million acres have been scorched statewide this year alone, according to Cal Fire, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has pointed to climate change as a primary factor in the wildfires plaguing his state. This time last year, California saw 4,927 fires that burned 118,000 acres, according to the governor. In 2020, there have been 7,606 blazes so far.
  • National parks closed: Yesterday, 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 thick smoke layer is expected to keep temperatures down across portions of California

The San Francisco Bay Bridge is seen along Harrison Street under a smoke-filled sky in San Francisco, California, on September 9.

The winds have died down, improving wildfire conditions across California. Dry weather will continue to prevail, though, as wildfires continue to produce a smoke blanket across much of the state. This smoke is having an effect on the weather forecasts across the region, typically reducing what would be higher temperatures. 

“Don’t be surprised by high-temperature forecast busts in this regime,” the National Weather Service in Hanford said.


The smoke from the fires in the region will not only continue to make for poor air quality; it will also hamper the temperature forecast in the region. Thicker smoke will make it cooler than the temperature should be because of the blocked the solar insolation, the Hanford weather office said. 

Unfortunately, the dry weather conditions, one ingredient for fire growth, will continue across this region.

Los Angeles 

Across the Los Angeles metro, temperatures are forecast to be above normal through the weekend. But, wildfire smoke in the area could keep temperatures closer to normal, says the National Weather Service in Los Angeles. 

Winds will remain offshore but are not forecast to be a strong as Wednesday’s winds. 

San Francisco

Smoky and hazy conditions will likely prevail in the San Francisco Bay Area through the week’s remainder, says the weather office in San Francisco. 

Thursday morning smoke was still mixing in with fog and a deep marine layer of clouds. 

It could be another day with a similar-looking sky to yesterday’s, that had a similar hue to that of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Fire conditions are improved today across Northern California, but the smoke is likely to hang around. Friday and Saturday could see reduced smoke concentration allowing temperatures to rise a bit higher than average. But this highly depends on the direction of the wind and how much smoke remains over the region, says the Sacramento weather office.  

You can check the local forecast here.

Resources "by the millions of dollars" already going to families impacted by wildfires, Pence says

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign event on September 1 in Exeter, Pennsylvania.

Vice president Mike Pence addressed what the federal government is doing to assist with ongoing wildfires across the west, telling Fox News Thursday morning that the Trump administration is working closely with governors of impacted states.

 “We’re working very closely with governors in states that are effected. I think when Gov. Gavin Newsom submitted a disaster declaration, President Trump approved that in roughly 24 hours. We’ve issued 22 separate federal fire support grants and we’ve already got resources by the millions of dollars that are flowing to impacted families,” Pence said.

He continued, “But look, my daughter and son-in-law live in California. Our hearts go out to all of those enduring or threatened by these fires and I want to assure everyone that we’re going to make sure that those courageous firefighters, that homeowners and businesses have the full support of the federal government.”

President Trump has yet to offer any public statement of support during historic wildfires. The President last weighed in the devastating fires in California in the middle of August, when another round of blazes was burning north of the Bay Area. His familiar response was to blame the state’s forest management. 

“They’re starting again in California,” he said at a rally. “I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”

The winds will shift Thursday, but the air remains critically dry in Oregon

The city of Estacada, Oregon, is seen on September 9.

Wildfire weather conditions are beginning to look more favorable across Oregon as the winds start to shift from an offshore to an onshore flow and will improve even more moving into the weekend.

The air, however, will remain dry and temperatures in some areas could climb to near triple digits. The only thing that could keep Medford, Oregon, from reaching 100 degrees today will be the blanket of smoke across the region. 

Conditions across the current wildfires in southern Oregon will remain unstable and very dry, allowing them to create their own weather patterns. 

Red-flag warnings in these areas will remain through the afternoon and into the evening Thursday.

It is difficult to forecast where the smoke will be most hazardous across the state, except, of course, for areas that are close to active fires. 

West winds this afternoon and into Friday will begin to move the smoke further inland. 

You can check the local forecast here.

Here's how you can help people impacted by the wildfires 

A volunteer checks-in an evacuee at an evacuation center at the Watsonville Fairgrounds in Watsonville, California, on August 26.

Wildfires are wreaking havoc on California, Oregon, and Washington, killing at least seven people and forcing tens of thousands of people into shelters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Various non-profit organizations are responding to assist displaced residents and help with recovery. To support all of the organizations helping out, click on the button above or click here.

The Red Cross is working in all three states providing meals, health services, comfort and other support for affected residents.. The organization is accepting donations and looking to enlist thousands of volunteers to help during wildfire season.

United Way of Northern California and Whitman County are providing emergency cash grants to those who lost their homes.

Due to the pandemic, long-term needs like rehousing and income recovery may be particularly difficult for fire victims. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is allocating funds to help.

The California Fire Foundation’s Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program accepts donations to help those affected by the fires. The organization provides $250 gift cards to eligible victims.

Read more here.

The hottest day of the week across the critical fire area in Washington

After setting and tieing record high temperatures yesterday, some of the same locations across western Washington will see even higher temperatures Thursday.

“Persistent high pressure coupled with another day of offshore flow will result in the hottest day of the week today and another day of critical fire weather conditions,” the National Weather Service in Seattle said.

A red-flag warning remains in effect through this evening because of the hot and dry conditions. 

“In western Washington, significant growth on existing fires takes place under such conditions,” the weather office said. 

Friday, the winds will finally shift to onshore, raising the humidity, lowering the temperatures and ultimately lowering the fire risk.

However, this wind shift won’t likely diminish Washington’s plight with smoke. Instead of experiencing smoke from Washington’s own fires, it could mean smoke from the Oregon ones.

You can check the local forecast here.

What it's like to drive through an area ravaged by a wildfire 

Nancy Hamilton said driving through the Berry Creek area in Northern California, where the North Complex Fire has scorched more than 250,000 acres, was downright terrifying.

The Butte County resident said she decided to drive to the area Wednesday to get a closer look at the destruction.

Hamilton says she’s currently housing several families who were forced to evacuate their homes, including her best friend’s 80-year-old grandmother whose home was swallowed by the flames.

“They’re pretty devastated,” Hamilton said. “She just lost everything.”

“I was able to take photos for her so at least she knows that it was gone,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know their houses are gone and they’re wondering.”

Nancy Hamilton, who shared this photo, says it was terrifying to drive through the Berry Creek area in Northern California, where the North Complex Fire has scorched more than 250,000 acres.

Trump has been largely silent on the devastating Western fires

US President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 9.

President Trump has yet to offer any public statement of support during historic wildfires spreading in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California — even though he vowed federal intervention in those states earlier this summer amid racial unrest.

Trump last weighed in the devastating fires in California in the middle of August, when another round of blazes was burning north of the Bay Area. His familiar response was to blame the state’s forest management. 

He hasn’t weighed in on the more recent fires, which have spread to Washington and Oregon. He sent several tweets and retweets on Thursday morning but none about the fires. 

What it’s like on the ground: Oregon’s governor has said there could be unparalleled devastation in her state, both in terms of property damage and deaths. More than 2.5 million acres have burned in California, a historic figure. 

FEMA has freed up some federal funds for combatting the blazes and Trump signed a disaster declaration for California in August, but he has yet to sign one for Oregon, whose governor said she sent in the request on Wednesday night. And he’s so far remained largely silent on the spreading fires. 

That is hardly the same response Trump demonstrated after protests turned violent in Portland and Seattle earlier this summer. Trump dispatched federal law enforcement to Portland to protect a federal courthouse, leading to scenes of violent clashes and accusations of federal overreach. Federal officers were also dispatched to Seattle amid protests. 

In total, one person has died in the Portland unrest. So far at least seven people have died in the wildfires and more deaths are expected. 

Some background: Trump has a history of dismissing wildfires and other natural disasters on the West Coast, where he does not enjoy widespread support. When he visited the site of a major fire in Butte County in 2018, he mistakenly called the town “Pleasure” instead of “Paradise.”

A former DHS official, Miles Taylor, has said Trump sought to withhold emergency money to California during previous fires. 

“He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him and that politically it wasn’t a base for him,” Taylor said recently. 

The Bay Area woke up to a scene straight out of Mars yesterday as wildfires raged

A woman walks along The Embarcadero under an orange smoke-filled sky in San Francisco, California on September 9.

Orange and even red skies blanketed San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, and ash rained down yesterday, with wildfires raging far in the distance.

Residents turned on lights, looking into a rust-colored sky that made it look like nighttime. Winds are carrying the wildfire smoke from afar. Both the Creek Fire and the North Complex Fire are burning more than 200 miles away, yet their presence could be felt in the Bay Area. Other places, such as Salem, Oregon, are experiencing similar apocalyptic glows.

Law enforcement and fire personnel wait to enter an area encroached by fire during the Bear fire, part of the North Lightning Complex fires, in Oroville, California on September 9.

The massive plumes of smoke generated by the wildfires raging across California have led to the longest stretch of unhealthy air quality alerts on record in the Bay Area, with 25 straight days of “Spare the Air” alerts, Erin DeMerritt, Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesperson, told CNN. The previous record was 14 consecutive days during the 2018 Camp Fire.

“The smoke and ash are acting like nature’s version of an Instagram filter,” Jones said. “The particles in the air are refracting sunlight similar to the way small air particles do when the sun sets or rises.”

A waiter carries a tray to people having lunch at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, under darkened skies from wildfire smoke, on Wednesday.

About the orange skies: The particles scatter the shorter wavelengths of blue and green, making us unable to see them. The longer wavelengths of red and yellow pass through the bottom, giving us this “haunting” effect, Jones said.

Orange skies covered San Francisco, making Sneha Patil feel like she was on another planet.

“It was surreal,” Patil wrote. “It felt like I had woken up to the skies in Mars!”

See scenes from the ground:

Firefighters look out over a burning hillside as they fight the Blue Ridge Fire in Yorba Linda, California, October 26, 2020. - Some 60,000 people fled their homes near Los Angeles on October 26 as a fast-spreading wildfire raged across more than 7,200 acres (3,000 hectares), blocking key roadways and critically injuring two firefighters.