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Search on for survivors as wildfires torch millions of acres in US

| Updated: September 18, 2020 16:30:24


Search on for survivors as wildfires torch millions of acres in US

Crews were to resume searching for the dead on Sunday among blackened ruins left by massive wildfires raging in three western US states, where millions of acres have burned in weeks and "mass fatality" incidents are feared in Oregon.

A blitz of wildfires across Oregon, California and Washington has destroyed thousands of homes and a half dozen small towns this summer, scorching a landscape the size of New Jersey and killing more than two dozen people since early August.

After four days of brutally hot, windy weather, the weekend brought calmer winds blowing inland from the Pacific Ocean, and cooler, moister conditions that helped crews make headway against blazes that had burned unchecked earlier in the week.

Still, emergency officials worried that the shifting weather might not bring much relief to southern Oregon, where an apocalyptic scene of charred residential subdivisions and trailer parks stretched for miles along Highway 99 south of Medford through the neighbouring communities of Phoenix and Talent.

"We're concerned that the incoming front is not going to provide a lot of rain here in the Medford region and it's going to bring increased winds," Bureau of Land Management spokesman Kyle Sullivan told Reuters in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the perilous blazes a "once-in-a-generation event," and the director of Oregon's office of emergency management, Andrew Phelps, said authorities were bracing for the possibility of "mass fatality" incidents.

At least ten people have been killed in Oregon, according to the office of emergency management. Brown has said that dozens of people remained missing across three counties.

"There are going to be a number of fatalities, folks that just couldn't get warning in time and couldn't evacuate their homes and get to safety," Phelps told MSNBC on Friday.

There were 38 actives fires burning in Oregon as of Sunday morning, according to the state's office of emergency management website.

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