By Chuck Woodbury
I just walked outside my home north of Seattle and glanced upward. There, barely visible, was the sun, nearly totally obscured by the orange sky. Wildfires are burning up and down the Pacific coast and the smoke moves where the wind blows it. I can see it and I can smell it. It’s eerie.
The smoke is so thick and widespread that NASA’s EPIC camera aboard the NOAA Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft captured a photo on Sept. 9 from one million miles away that clearly showed smoke from the West Coast wildfires.
About 2.5 million acres of California is burning, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut. At least 19 deaths have been reported in California. The blazes have engulfed more than 1 million acres of land in Oregon, leaving at least eight people dead and forcing evacuations in populous counties and parts of the state unaccustomed to wildfire. An estimated 500,000 people, or more than 10 percent of the state’s residents, were under evacuation warnings or orders Saturday. At least five entire towns have been destroyed by fire in Oregon. So has much of Malden, Washington, and swaths of Big Creek and Berry Creek, both in California. A 1-year-old died in Washington state, and his parents are in critical condition after they were unable to escape a wildfire. The couple lost their unborn baby, as well.
As of Thursday morning, 102 large fires have burned 4.4 million acres in 12 states, including California, Oregon and Washington, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Look at this video of the devastation in Medford, Oregon. I have visited Medford many times and never imagined a fire like this could happen there.
As I started putting together a list yesterday (Saturday) of all the lands in the West where campgrounds and recreation facilities are now off-limits I realized it would be far too long for me to include here. So I suggest if you are traveling now and headed anywhere in the Western states that you investigate where you are going, and passing through, before you hit the road.
Please leave a comment below about places you have encountered that are now off-limits, including those campgrounds and RV parks where your reservations have been cancelled.
For the latest fire information, check these sources
Start by checking here, at InciWeb. Search a map from the federal government for current wildfire information.
Good luck wherever you are. My advice: Stay put for now if you will be anywhere near a fire scene. It’s ugly outside now. The air isn’t a whole of fun to breathe and it’s not healthy, either.