- At least 33 people have died in the wildfires raging in California, Oregon, and Washington.
- Dozens more are still missing, and states are preparing for a “mass fatality incident.”
- California Governor Gavin Newsom says the forest fires were caused at least in part caused by climate change, hitting back against Trump’s claims that poor forest management is to blame.
- The historic wildfires will likely have a lasting economic impact on the region, as well as a public health one.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that wildfire smoke weakens the immune system and irritates lungs, making people more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
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At least 33 people have died in the wildfires that have proliferated across the West Coast, with more deaths expected.
In California, fires that blazed across at least 3.2 million acres of land have resulted in the deaths of at least 22 people as of Saturday, according to NBC News. In Oregon, wildfires have killed 10 people and resulted in evacuation orders or alerts for 500,000 people, or over 10% of the state’s population.
In Washington, the only reported fatality so far was a one-year-old child who died in the Cold Springs fire in Okanogan County. The child’s parents escaped the fire with third-degree burns.
Dozens of people missing in wildfire zones remain unaccounted for as governors of all three states brace for “a mass fatality incident.” Sixteen people are still missing in Butte County, California, which was previously ravaged by the Camp Fire in 2018. The Camp Fire was one of the deadliest wildfires in history, with a death toll of 85 people.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the unprecedented wildfires were caused, at least in part, by climate change.
“The debate is over,” Newsom told reporters. This is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it’s happening.”
Other politicians, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, also pushed back on Trump’s claims that the fires were caused by poor forest management and not climate change.
“It’s been very clear that years of drought, as we’re seeing, whether it’s too much water and too much rain in parts of our country right now, or too little,” Garcetti told CNN. “This is climate change and this is an administration that’s put its head in the sand.”
Experts say the toll of the West Coast wildfires is likely to extend beyond their immediate impact on public safety. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC), a government agency, said in a report that increasing wildfires could spark a financial crisis. Home values, tourism, and worker productivity could plummet as a result of the wildfires.
The air quality in West Coast cities is currently some of the worst in the world due to wildfire smoke, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that wildfire smoke can irritate lungs and affect immune systems, making people more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.