19 dead as West Coast wildfires rage and cause world’s worst air quality

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An estimated 500,000 Oregon residents are facing evacuation because of the wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

The nearly 70 active wildfires raging along the West Coast have produced the worst air quality on the planet. Portland, Seattle and San Francisco were the top-three worst, according to IQ Air, as of Friday night. Los Angeles ranked seventh.

At least 26 people have been killed this year in the fires, including 19 just this week.

Amid the devastating blazes, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order to combat price gouging. This is in response, she said, to reports that some essential consumer goods and services, especially lodging, saw outsized price increases.

“During a statewide emergency, it is absolutely unacceptable to price-gouge Oregonians who have already been hard hit and are facing devastating loss,” Brown said in a statement Thursday.

As of Saturday morning, there were 37 active fires burning more than 1 million acres, or 1,500 square miles, in Oregon. The largest, the Beachie Creek Fire, has burned at least 186,000 acres and was 0% contained. The fire has killed at least two people and injured at least four others.

The Holiday Farm Fire has burned more than 156,000 acres and was 0% contained. One person was found dead Friday in a home within the perimeter of the fire, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said. The Lionshead Fire, which has burned more than 136,000 acres and injured at least four people, was 5% contained.

The Riverside Fire, at 130,000 acres and 0% containment, and the Archie Creek Fire, at more than 107,000 acres and 0% containment, were still raging, authorities said.

“Thousands of evacuated Oregonians are sleeping in motels, on cots in shelters, or with friends/family,” Brown tweeted. “Please know that we are doing everything in our power to fight these fires.”

As state and local emergency responders continue their heroic work, they’ll now be getting some additional federal help.

A day after a delegation of Oregon lawmakers sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for disaster assistance, he approved the state’s emergency declaration.

“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures … to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe,” a statement from the White House said.

In California, at least 14,000 firefighters were one the front lines Friday battling 28 major active wildfires. Many firefighters there have braved the grueling conditions for almost a month straight. Since the beginning of the year, wildfires have scorched a combined 3.1 million acres — an area larger than Connecticut.

The North Complex Fire, formerly known as the Bear Fire, has burned more than 252,500 acres, was 23% contained and has resulted in at least 10 deaths. It also destroyed at least 2,000 structures.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday for Siskiyou County, where the Slater Fire was at 140,000 acres and 0% contained.

Six of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred this year.

The August Complex Fire had covered at least 491,600 acres and was 25% contained, while the El Dorado Fire near San Bernardino reached 13,000 acres and was 31% contained.

In Washington, the Cold Springs Fire in Okanogan County reached 187,000 acres and was 25% contained. A young child was killed in that fire earlier this week, with both parents suffering critical burn injuries.