It’s been more than a week, and the unprecedented wildfires are still raging. At least 35 people have been confirmed dead as dozens of major fires wreak havoc on the West Coast. President Trump was briefed by state officials on Monday.
In one of the hardest-hit areas, the northern California town of Berry Creek, the West Zone Fire swept through so quickly that 14 people were killed and seven more remain missing. Recovery crews face a daunting task as home after home is destroyed.
The fires are also creating a thick smoke that’s so hazardous that California Governor Gavin Newsom compared it to smoking 400 cigarettes a day. Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are now all in the top five cities for the worst air quality in the world.
Talent, Oregon, was blanketed in flame retardant in an attempt to save the town. But it was no match for the flames, and the entire neighborhood is now in ruins — just like several other communities where people had little time to flee.
Fire retardant coats surfaces in a neighborhood largely destroyed by wildfire on September 13, 2020, in Talent, Oregon.
David Ryder / Getty
Oregon officials fear the death toll could dramatically rise. It already includes Peggy Mosso and her 13-year-old grandson Wyatt Tofte.
“He was such a brave boy trying to go back to save his grandma,” said Tofte’s great aunt Susan Vaslev. “I think he’s a hero … trying to save her — as opposed to [being] caught in the flames and just panicking alone, they died together.”
Wyatt’s mother was in a separate vehicle. She survived, but is in the hospital with severe burns.
The current wind and heat are expected to last through the week. Firefighters say the blazes could burn until November.