35 dead in the West Coast wildfires - smoky air extends from California to B.C.
24 people have died in California and one in Washington state. Thousands of homes and other buildings have burned.
At least 10 people were killed in the past week in the state of Oregon. Officials have said more people are missing from other fires, and the number of fatalities could likely rise.
Authorities last week reported as many as 50 people could be missing after a wildfire in the Ashland area. But the Jackson County sheriff's office said late Saturday that four people had died and that the number of people missing was down to one person only.
The smoke is now covering the entire west coast and harmful particles reach all the way into British Columbia, Canada.
Western Canada usually has many wildfires at this time of year, but a somewhat cooler and rainer summer than normal in recent years has helped the region escape with fewer wildfires this year. However, the smoke from the US fires has abruptly put an end to summer in BC, with temperatures dropping significantly. The warm late summer temperatures dropped 10-15 degrees C, basically overnight, as clouds of smoke started covering the sun on Friday, giving the sky the appearance of a dark wintery day.
Photo:(Above) by Gregor Wegrzyn. The East Beach boat launch in White Rock, BC, just north of the US border, was covered in what looked like a thick smog all weekend. Despite no fires burning in the area on the Canadian side, Greater Vancouver Area had reportedly the worst air quality in the world over the past weekend.
Wildfire smoke is throwing in yet another difficult variable in the fight against Covid-19. Many people experience symptoms such as coughing and sore throats when smoke is polluting the air. Also, people who have breathing difficulties due to Covid and other respiratory illnesses are experiencing a worsening of symptoms.
According to CBC News, the wildfires in California have never been worse than this year:
"This is an unprecedented event," said Noah Diffenbaugh, professor and senior fellow at Stanford University in California, who has been studying fire risk in California. "We now have the largest wildfire in the state's history, as well as the third largest and the fourth largest and five of the Top 10."
He said they've all started in the past three and a half weeks. The North Complex Fire in northern California, which broke out on Aug. 17 following lightning strikes, has become the largest wildfire in state history.