Tens of thousands of people have been told to evacuate as at least 50 large wildfires continue to burn throughout the states of California, Washington and Oregon, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Hundreds of homes, businesses and other buildings have already burned to the ground.
Many of the blazes started in the last 48 hours as record heat, drought and wind fueled the flames.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called the incident “a once-in-a-generation event” in a news conference and declared a state of emergency for the entire state.
The flames were fanned by 45 mph winds in Oregon, and more than a thousand homes were destroyed between the towns of Phoenix and Talent, according to the New York Times.
“We expect to see a great deal of loss, both in structures and in human lives,” Gov. Brown said. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.”
Experts have called the fire season unprecedented— California has seen 7,600 wildfires this year, compared to 4,927 wildfires by this time last year.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Bernardino and San Diego counties because of the wildfires. At least 20,000 people were told to evacuate Wednesday morning after the Bear Fire continued to grow near Oroville in Yuba and Butte Counties in California.
The Creek Fire, which has burned more than 254 square miles in the Sierra National Forest and destroyed at least 60 homes in California’s Madera County, is the largest of the recent fires in the state. Several communities in Madera and Fresno counties were under evacuation orders as the fire continued.
The small town of Malden, Washington, was nearly entirely consumed by fire on Memorial Day. Eleven large fires were burning in the state Wednesday morning, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.