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Unprecedented fires engulf California as others ravage Oregon and Washington state

The American West’s wildfire disaster is only getting worse. As California struggles to corral widespread blazes, the governor of Oregon reported hundreds of homes had burned in her state. High winds are fanning uncontrolled flames, more power outages are expected and California’s national forests were shut down as officials try to prevent new fires from sparking. Stephanie Sy reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to the West Coast, where blowtorch winds where sent wildfires racing anew today.

    Oregon's governor reported hundreds of homes had burned. And California struggled again to corral fires up and down the state.

    Stephanie Sy has our report.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Heavy winds and low humidity. The day's forecast brought fresh dangers to much of California, where smoke from two dozen active fires blotted out the sun in the Bay Area, turning the skies an eerie orange.

  • Woman:

    All the windows are open in my house, and look how dark it is. This is crazy.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    In Central California, the Creek Fire, among the biggest in the state, is still raging completely unchecked. Authorities say it has burned through more than 360 buildings and is threatening 5,000 more around the Sierra National Forest, east of Fresno.

    All national forests were closed down statewide today to prevent other fires from erupting. Farther north, another fire rapidly exploded overnight in Butte County, which led to evacuation orders and warnings, including for the town of Paradise, which was decimated by the state's deadliest wildfire in 2018.

    More than 2 million acres have been burned in fires across California, an unprecedented amount this early in the season. But the National Weather Service is warning of elevated fire risk in much of the Western U.S. Oregon is dealing with at least 35 active fires. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate and a state of emergency was declared overnight.

    Satellite imagery shows the staggering amount of smoke from fires there and in California. In Washington state, wildfires burned more acres in a single day than normally seen in a full year. Crews in Washington battled through the smoke-filled skies overnight.

    Much of the devastation centered around the small farming town of Malden in the Eastern part of the state.

  • Shannon Thorton:

    Everything gone, clothes, beds, everything.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    About 80 percent of homes and structures were destroyed.

    Strong winds are also driving fires in other parts of the drought-stricken West, from Arizona to Montana. Still, crews in some regions got a moment of respite. A drastic temperature plunge around Denver, Colorado yesterday brought with it snow, helping contain fires there.

  • Evan Smith:

    We had a little bit of unexpected weather roll in, weather in the 80s yesterday and now in the 20s today.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Extreme weather and extreme fires.

    But, back in California, there's reason to hope for a break.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    The wind activity appears to be dying down, which is encouraging. And the rest of the week looks a little bit more favorable.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

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