CALIFORNIA—As of 9 a.m., September 13, at least 33 people had been killed in West Coast wildfires in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. At least 10 people were killed in the past week throughout Oregon. Officials said due to the number of people missing, the number of fatalities is likely to rise.
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, NBC News reported.
According to an article written by Business Insider, the State of Washington only reported one fatality, bringing the death count of Western state wildfires to 33. The victim was a one-year-old child who died in the Cold Springs fire in Okanogan County according to Buzzfeed news. The child’s parents escaped the fire with third-degree burns.
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. On Saturday, September 12, the Jackson County Sheriff’s office said that four people had died in the wildfire that burned in the Ashland area. Earlier this week authorities said that as many as 50 people could be missing from the blaze. Later they said the number of people unaccounted for is now down to one.
Due to the wildfires that have burned four million acres of land as of September 13, air quality readings in parts of Oregon and California reached hazardous or even off-the-chart readings. The skies of Oregon and California changed to a dark orange-red color and then to an orange-white.
The Environmental Protection Agency developed the Air Quality Index (AQI), which is used to communicate to the public how polluted the air is on a scale of one to 500. Certain cities or regions in Oregon and California had AQI readings that reached over 500, 600, and 700. In the City of Weeds, California, as of 3 p.m. local time, the AQI was 1290.
There are six categories for air quality: hazardous (301 to 500), very unhealthy (201 to 300), unhealthy (151 to 200), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101 to 150), moderate (51 to 100), and good (0 to 50).
San Francisco’s AQI as of Sunday’s forecast, was 161, in the unhealthy range, down from 219, which was in the very unhealthy range, at 9 p.m. on Friday. Air quality forecasts can be viewed on the IQ Air website: https://www.iqair.com/usa/california/san-francisco
The Centers of Disease Control’s website and page about natural disasters and severe weather warned the public about health hazards caused by the wildfires coupled with the novel coronavirus.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for wildfires might be a little different this year. Know how wildfire smoke can affect you and your loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic and what you can do to protect yourselves,” the CDC website read.
Wildfire smoke can irritate people’s lungs, affect their immune system, and make them prone to infections, including the novel COVID-19.