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'It Was Surreal:' Residents Flee for Their Lives as Unprecedented Fires Ravage West Coast

09-09-2020
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Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020 (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020 (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

More than 85 wildfires are scorching hundreds of thousands of acres across the West Coast.

Strong winds, record heat, and dry conditions are fueling at least 25 large wildfires in California alone.

So-called Diablo winds in the north and Santa Ana winds in the south are making it difficult for firefighters to battle the blazes.

"We have fires burning in the north part of the state all the way down to the Mexican border, about 800 miles between the furthest distant fires," Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said in an interview with CNN.

The Dolan fire in Monterey County nearly doubled in size overnight. More than a dozen firefighters were forced to deploy emergency shelters as flames overtook them – something only used when their lives are in immediate danger.

Three of the firefighters were flown to a hospital in Fresno.  One is reportedly in critical condition.

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Thousands of residents have been forced to flee their homes.

"We're in uncharted territory with the amount of evacuations and with the speed of the fire," said Lt. Brandon Pursell of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

It is not just in California. Hurricane-force winds in the Pacific Northwest are fueling more fires.  

In Oregon, the governor has declared a state of emergency as 36 wildfires burn across the state.

Residents had only minutes to evacuate the town of Malden, where cars were destroyed, and homes burned to the foundation.\

"It was surreal," said resident Rebekah Heath. "I can't believe how fast; I still can't fathom how fast, how quick, how quickly it traveled."

So far, California has already set a record with nearly 2.3 million acres burned this year. And the worst part of the wildfire season is just beginning.

Meanwhile, an early snowfall came to the rescue of residents and firefighters in northern Colorado – another region that's facing wildfires. 

Tuesday, the Cameron Peak fire forced residents to evacuate – the flames growing to more than 100,000 acres in the state's fourth-largest fire. Today, snow falling on the region extinguished parts of the fire, allowing residents temporarily back into their homes.

Even in the midst of a snowstorm, fire crews are still battling other fires. And the flames will likely return to full force once the snowstorm passes.   

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