Wildfires death toll climbs to 33 with one person still missing

Wildfires death toll climbs to 33 with one person still missing
The wildfires have cast a shroud of smoke over the region (John Locher/AP)

Nearly all of those reported missing in wildfires that have killed at least 33 people in the US have been accounted for, according to authorities.

Crews continue to battle blazes from California to Washington state.

The flames have destroyed neighbourhoods, leaving a barren, grey landscape in their wake, driven tens of thousands of people from their homes and cast a shroud of smoke over the region.

What else can go wrong?

Evacuee Danielle Oliver

The crisis has come amid the coronavirus outbreak, the economic downturn and nationwide racial unrest that has led to protests in Portland for more than 100 days.

“What’s next?” asked Danielle Oliver, who had to flee her home outside Portland.

“You have the protests, coronavirus pandemic, now the wildfires. What else can go wrong?”

Jackson County Sheriff’s office said late on Saturday that four people had died in the wildfire that burned in the Ashland area.

Authorities earlier this week said as many as 50 people could be missing from the blaze but they said the number of people unaccounted for is now down to one.

At least 10 people have been killed in the past week throughout Oregon.

Officials have said more people are missing from other blazes and the number of fatalities is likely to rise.

Smoke from wildfires fills the sky over Pasadena in California (John Antczak/AP)

A total of 22 people have died in California and one person has been killed in Washington state.

Among the people killed was Millicent Catarancuic, who was found near her car at her five-acre home in Berry Creek, California.

At one point she was ready to evacuate with her dogs and cats in the car but she changed her mind as the winds seemed to calm and the flames stayed away.

Then the fire changed direction, rushing on to the property too quickly for her to leave.

She died, along with her animals.

“I feel like, maybe when they passed, they had an army of cats and dogs with her to help her through it,” said her daughter, Holly.

George Coble walks through what remains of a home on his property in Oregon (John Locher/AP)

George Coble lost everything just outside Mill City, Oregon – his fence-building business, five houses where his family lived and a collection of vintage cars, including a 1967 Mustang.

“We’ll just keep working and keep your head up and thank God everybody got out,” Mr Coble said.

In a town nearby, Erik Tucker spent the day coated in ash and smudged with charcoal, hauling buckets of water through what remained of his neighbourhood to douse hotspots.

“No power, debris everywhere, smoke, can’t breathe,” he said.

The Democratic governors of all three states have said the fires are a consequence of global warming.

The dry, windy conditions that fed the flames in Oregon were probably a once in a generation event, Greg Jones, a professor and research climatologist at Linfield University in McMinnville. said.

The warmer world can increase the likelihood of extreme events and contribute to their severity, he added.

Meanwhile, there was political turmoil as Oregon’s fire marshal was forced out while 500,000 state residents were ordered to evacuate or warned to be ready to leave.

Details were scarce on why he was put on leave, then resigned.

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