Western leaders blame climate change as wildfires burn 4.6 million acres

Sept. 13 (UPI) — Government leaders in Oregon, California and Washington said the fires burning across the western United States are the result of climate change.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported that 94 large fires have burned 4.6 million acres as of Sunday.

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At least 32 people have died amid the fires as Oregon’s death toll rose to 10 on Sunday after three bodies were discovered in Jackson County. California had reported 21 deaths as of Saturday and a 1-year-old boy died in Washington State.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told CBS News’ Face the Nation that while the exact cause of the blazes is under investigation, they sprung up in the state amid a combination of poor weather conditions, “decades of mismanagement” of the country’s forests and the effects of climate change.

“I have to tell you, we saw the perfect firestorm. We saw incredible winds. We saw very cold, hot temperatures. And of course, we have a landscape that has seen 30 years of drought,” she said. “This is truly the bellwether for climate change on the West Coast. And this is a wake-up call for all of us that we have got to do everything in our power to tackle climate change.”

Brown said more than 40,000 Oregonians have been forced to evacuate and about half a million are on some level of evacuation status as fires have burned more than 1 million acres in the state.

The largest of the blazes, the Beachie Creek Fire, has burned 188,374 acres in Santiam Canyon east of Salem and is 0% contained.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire protection on Sunday said that the August Complex Fire, the largest blaze in the state’s history, had burned 877,477 acres in Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties at 28% containment.

The 258,802-acre North Complex in Plumas and Butte counties has become the deadliest fire in the state, resulting in 12 deaths, followed by the LNU Lightning Complex which has resulted in five deaths and one each has died in the CZU Lightning Complex, August, Tatham and Hills fires.

President Donald Trump is set to visit California to meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom and emergency response officials for a briefing on wildfires that have burned through the state since mid-August.

On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti criticized Trump and his administration for ignoring the effects of climate change.

“This is climate change. And this is an administration that’s put its head in the sand, while we have Democratic and Republican mayors across the country stepping up to do their part,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “This is an administration, a president who wants to withdraw from the Paris climate accords later this year, the only country in the world to do so. Talk to a firefighter, if you think that climate change isn’t real.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the conditions in the state as apocalyptic as wildfire shave burned more than 500,000 acres, also citing climate change as the cause.

“We know that climate change is making fires start easier, spread faster and intensify. And it is maddening right now that when we have this cosmic challenge to our communities, with the entire West Coast of the United States on fire, to have a president to deny that … these are climate fires,” he said on ABC News This Week.

The largest of the fires in the state, the 223,730-acre Pearl Hill Fire, was 80% contained as of Sunday.

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