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Massive wildfires in US West bring haze to East Coast

Massive wildfires in US West bring haze to East Coast

PORTLAND, Ore. — Wildfires in the American West, including one burning in Oregon that’s currently the largest in the U.S., are creating hazy skies as far away as New York as the massive infernos spew smoke and ash into the air in columns up to six miles high.Skies over New York City were hazy Tuesday as strong winds blew smoke east from California, Oregon, Montana and other states. Oregon’s Bootleg Fire grew to 606 square miles (1,569 square kilometers) — half the size of Rhode Island.Fires also grew on both sides of California’s Sierra Nevada. In Alpine County, the so-called California Alps, the Tamarack Fire caused evacuations of several communities and grew to 61 square miles (158 square kilometers) with no containment. The Dixie Fire, near the site of 2018’s deadly Paradise Fire, was more than 90 square miles (163 square kilometers) and threatened tiny communities in the Feather River Valley region.The smoke on the U.S. East Coast was reminiscent of last fall when multiple large fires burning in Oregon in the state’s worst fire season in recent memory choked the local skies with pea-soup smoke but also impacted air quality several thousand miles away.“We’re seeing lots of fires producing a tremendous amount of smoke, and … by the time that smoke gets to the eastern portion of the country where it’s usually thinned out, there’s just so much smoke in the atmosphere from all these fires that it’s still pretty thick,” said David Lawrence, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Over the last two years we’ve seen this phenomenon.”Tony Galvez fled the Tamarack Fire in California on Tuesday with his daughter at the last minute and found out later that his home was gone.“I lost my whole life, everything I’ve ever had. The kids are what’s going to matter,” he said as he fielded calls from relatives. “I got three teenagers. They’re going to go home to a moonscape.”The Oregon fire has ravaged the southern part of the state and has been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by gusting winds and critically dry weather that’s turned trees and undergrowth into a tinderbox.Fire crews have had to retreat from the flames for 10 consecutive days as fireballs jump from treetop to treetop, trees explode, embers fly ahead of the fire to start new blazes and, in some cases, the inferno’s heat creates its own weather of shifting winds and dry lightning. Monstrous clouds of smoke and ash have risen up to 6 miles into the sky and are visible for more than 100 air miles.The fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest merged with a smaller nearby blaze Tuesday, and it has repeatedly breached a perimeter of treeless dirt and fire retardant meant to stop its advance.A red flag weather warning signifying dangerous fire conditions was in effect through Tuesday and possibly longer. The fire is 30% contained.“We’re in this for as long as it takes to safely confine this monster,” Incident Commander Rob Allen said.At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Thick smoke chokes the area where residents and wildlife alike have already been dealing with months of drought and extreme heat. No one has died.Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.On Tuesday, officials temporarily closed all recreational and public access to state-managed lands in eastern Washington due to fire danger, starting Friday. The closure will affect about 2,260 square miles (5,853 square kilometers) of land.The area on the northeastern flank of the Bootleg Fire is in the ancestral homeland of the Klamath Tribes, which have used intentional, managed fire to keep the fuel load low and prevent such explosive blazes. The tribe lost its hunting, fishing and gathering rights in a court case nearly 30 years ago but the area of lakes and marshes remains central to their culture and heritage.The tribe, which regained its federal recognition from the U.S. government in 1986 after losing it in the 1950s, has worked alongside the nonprofit organization The Nature Conservancy to use planned fires on the landscape to thin forests in the Sycan Marsh. The area of wetland and high-elevation forest is part of the tribe’s traditional homeland and burned in the blaze this week.“It’s so devastating. The fire burned through a lot of area where I’ve hunted with my father and brother and other folks who have since passed away,” said Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry. “It’s all our aboriginal territory and it’s certainly going to impact big game and cultural sites and resources.”————Associated Press Video Journalists Haven Daley in Alpine County, California and David Martin in New York City contributed to this report.———Follow Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

Calls for outside help as extreme weather fuels Oregon fires

Calls for outside help as extreme weather fuels Oregon fires

PORTLAND, Ore. — The threat of thunderstorms and lightning has prompted officials in fire-ravaged Oregon to ask for help from outside the Pacific Northwest to prepare for additional blazes as many resources are already devoted to a massive fire in the state that has grown to a third the size of Rhode Island.The 537-square-mile (1,391-square-kilometer) Bootleg Fire is burning 300 miles (483 kilometers) southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges. Evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California.But eyeing how the Bootleg Fire — fueled by extreme weather — keeps growing by miles each day, officials with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon are asking for more outside crews to be ready should there be a surge in fire activity there.“Although the lightning activity predicted for early this week is expected to occur east of us, we are prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best,” Mike McCann, an assistant fire staff, said Monday in a statement released by the national forest.The worry is that dry conditions, a drought and the recent record-breaking heat wave in the region have created tinderbox conditions, so resources like fire engines are being recruited from places like Arkansas, Nevada and Alaska.Meanwhile, to the east, the Bootleg Fire’s jaw-dropping size contrasted with its relatively small impact on people underscores the vastness of the American West and offers a reminder that Oregon, which is larger than Britain, is still a largely rural state, despite being known mostly for its largest city, Portland.If the fire were in densely populated parts of California, “it would have destroyed thousands of homes by now,” said James Johnston, a researcher with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry who studies historical wildfires. “But it is burning in one of the more remote areas of the lower 48 states. It’s not the Bay Area out there.”At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Thick smoke chokes the area where residents and wildlife alike have already been dealing with months of drought and extreme heat. No one has died.Pushed by strong winds from the southwest, the fire is spreading rapidly to the north and east, advancing toward an area that’s increasingly remote.Evacuation orders on the fire’s southern edge, closer to more populous areas like Klamath Falls and Bly, have been lifted or relaxed as crews gain control. Now it’s small, unincorporated communities like Paisley and Long Creek — both with fewer than 250 people — and scattered homesteads that are in the crosshairs.But as big as the Bootleg Fire is, it’s not the biggest Oregon has seen. The fire’s size so far puts it fourth on the list of the state’s largest blazes in modern times, including rangeland fires, and second on the list of infernos specifically burning in forest.These megafires usually burn until the late fall or even early winter, when rain finally puts them out.The largest forest fire in modern history was the Biscuit Fire, which torched nearly 780 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) in 2002 in the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon and northern California.The Bootleg Fire is now about 25% contained.On Monday, flames forced the evacuation of a wildlife research station as firefighters had to retreat for the ninth consecutive day due to erratic and dangerous fire behavior. Sycan Marsh hosts thousands of migrating and nesting birds and is a key research station on wetland restoration in the upper reaches of the Klamath Basin.The Bootleg Fire was one of many fires burning in a dozen states, most of them in the U.S. West. Sixteen large uncontained fires burned in Oregon and Washington state alone on Monday.Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.And in Northern California, authorities expanded evacuations on the Tamarack Fire in Alpine County in the Sierra Nevada to include the mountain town of Mesa Vista. That fire, which exploded over the weekend and forced the cancellation of an extreme bike ride, was 36 square miles (93 square kilometers) with no containment.Thunderstorms expected to roll through Monday night could bring winds to fan the flames and lightning that could spark new ones, the National Weather Service said.

Unstable weather will continue to fuel huge Oregon blaze

Unstable weather will continue to fuel huge Oregon blaze

Forecasters say dry, unstable and windy conditions will keep fueling a massive wildfire in southern OregonBy GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated PressJuly 17, 2021, 6:38 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePORTLAND, Ore. — Dry, unstable and windy conditions will keep fueling a massive wildfire in southern Oregon, forecasters said, as the largely uncontained blaze grows by miles each day.The Bootleg Fire was just one of numerous wildfires burning across the U.S. West.Crews had to flee the fire lines of the Oregon blaze late Thursday after a dangerous “fire cloud” started to collapse, threatening them with strong downdrafts and flying embers. An initial review Friday showed the Bootleg Fire destroyed 67 homes and 117 outbuildings overnight in one county. Authorities were still counting the losses in a second county where the flames are surging up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day.The conflagration has forced 2,000 people to evacuate and is threatening 5,000 buildings, including homes and smaller structures in a rural area just north of the California border, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said. Active flames are surging along 200 miles (322 kilometers) of the fire’s perimeter, she said, and it’s expected to merge with a smaller, but equally explosive fire by nightfall.The Bootleg Fire is now 377 square miles (976 square kilometers) — larger than the area of New York City — and mostly uncontained.“We’re likely going to continue to see fire growth over miles and miles of active fire line,” Krake said. “We are continuing to add thousands of acres a day, and it has the potential each day, looking forward into the weekend, to continue those 3- to 4-mile runs.”A Red Flag weather warning was issued for the area through Saturday night.The inferno has stymied firefighters for a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior, including ominous fire clouds that form from superheated air rising to a height of up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) above the blaze.“We’re expecting those same exact conditions to continue and worsen into the weekend,” Krake said of the fire-induced clouds.Early on, the fire doubled in size almost daily, and strong winds Thursday again pushed the flames rapidly. Similar winds up to 30 mph (48 kph) were expected Friday.It’s burning an area north of the California border that has been gripped by extreme drought, like most of the American West.Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have swept the region, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.The blaze was most active on its northeastern flank, pushed by winds from the south toward the rural communities of Summer Lake and Spring Lake. Paisley, to the east of the fire, was also at risk. All the towns are in Lake County, a remote area of lakes and wildlife refuges with a total population of about 8,000.The Bootleg Fire is one of at least a dozen major fires burning in Washington state, Oregon and California as a siege of wildfires takes hold across the drought-stricken West. There were 70 active large fires and complexes of multiple fires that have burned nearly 1,659 square miles (4,297 square kilometers) in the U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said.In the Pacific Northwest, firefighters said in early July they were facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall.In California, the Tamarack Fire in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest quickly grew to 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers) on Friday, prompting evacuations in the Markleeville area in Alpine County. The blaze prompted the cancelation of Saturday’s “Death Ride,” a 103-mile (165.76-kilometer) bicycle ride in the so-called California Alps over three Sierra Nevada mountain passes.———Follow Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus.

Erratic Oregon wildfire destroys dozens of homes, expands

Erratic Oregon wildfire destroys dozens of homes, expands

Firefighters are scrambling to control an inferno in southeastern Oregon that’s spreading miles a day in windy conditions as wildfires across the U.S. West strain resourcesBy GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated PressJuly 17, 2021, 4:06 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePORTLAND, Ore. — Firefighters scrambled Friday to control a raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that’s spreading miles a day in windy conditions, one of numerous wildfires across the U.S. West that are straining resources.Crews had to flee the fire lines late Thursday after a dangerous “fire cloud” started to collapse, threatening them with strong downdrafts and flying embers. An initial review Friday showed the Bootleg Fire destroyed 67 homes and 117 outbuildings overnight in one county. Authorities were still counting the losses in a second county where the flames are surging up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day.The blaze has forced 2,000 people to evacuate and is threatening 5,000 buildings that include homes and smaller structures in a rural area just north of the California border, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said. Active flames are surging along 200 miles (322 kilometers) of the fire’s perimeter, she said, and it’s expected to merge with a smaller, but equally explosive fire by nightfall.The Bootleg Fire is now 377 square miles (976 square kilometers) — larger than the area of New York City — and mostly uncontained.“We’re likely going to continue to see fire growth over miles and miles of active fire line,” Krake said. “We are continuing to add thousands of acres a day, and it has the potential each day, looking forward into the weekend, to continue those 3- to 4-mile runs.”The inferno has stymied firefighters for a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior, including ominous fire clouds that form from superheated air rising to a height of up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) above the blaze.“We’re expecting those same exact conditions to continue and worsen into the weekend,” Krake said of the fire-induced clouds.Early on, the fire doubled in size almost daily, and strong winds Thursday again pushed the flames rapidly. Similar winds gusting up to 30 mph (48 kph) were expected Friday.It’s burning an area north of the California border that has been gripped by extreme drought, like most of the American West.Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have swept the region, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.The blaze was most active on its northeastern flank, pushed by winds from the south toward the rural communities of Summer Lake and Spring Lake. Paisley, to the east of the fire, was also at risk. All the towns are in Lake County, a remote area of lakes and wildlife refuges with a total population of about 8,000.The Bootleg Fire is one of at least a dozen major fires burning in Washington state, Oregon and California as a siege of wildfires takes hold across the drought-stricken West. There were 70 active large fires and complexes of multiple fires that have burned nearly 1,659 square miles (4,297 square kilometers) in the U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said.In the Pacific Northwest, firefighters say they are facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall than early July.About 200 firefighters were battling but had little control over the 17-square-mile (44-square-kilometer) Red Apple Fire near the Washington city of Wenatchee renowned for its apples. The flames were threatening apple orchards and an electrical substation, but no buildings have been lost, officials said.In California, the Tamarack Fire in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest quickly grew to 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers) on Friday, prompting evacuations in the Markleeville area in Alpine County. The blaze prompted the cancelation of Saturday’s “Death Ride,” a 103-mile (165.76-kilometer) bicycle ride in the so-called California Alps over three Sierra Nevada mountain passes.———Follow Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus.

Oregon wildfire forms 'fire clouds' that pose danger below

Oregon wildfire forms 'fire clouds' that pose danger below

PORTLAND, Ore. — Smoke and heat from a massive wildfire in southeastern Oregon are creating giant “fire clouds” over the blaze — dangerous columns of smoke and ash that can reach up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) in the sky and are visible from more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.Authorities have put these clouds at the top of the list of the extreme fire behavior they are seeing on the Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the U.S. The inferno grew Friday to about 75 square miles (194 square kilometers) larger than the size of New York City and was raging through a part of the U.S. West that is enduring a historic drought.The fire was so dangerous late Thursday and into Friday that authorities pulled out crews. Meteorologists this week also spotted a bigger, more extreme form of fire clouds — ones that can create their own weather, including “fire tornadoes.”Extreme fire behavior, including the formation of more fire clouds, was expected to persist Friday and worsen into the weekend.WHAT ARE ‘FIRE CLOUDS?’Pyrocumulus clouds — literally translated as “fire clouds” — look like giant, dirty-colored thunderheads that sit atop a massive column of smoke coming up from a wildfire. Often the top of the smoke column flattens out to take the shape of an anvil.In Oregon, fire authorities say the clouds are forming between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day as the sun penetrates the smoke layer and heats the ground below, creating an updraft of hot air. On this fire, crews are seeing the biggest and most dangerous clouds over a section of wilderness that’s made up mostly of dead trees, which burn instantly and with a lot of heat.For four days in a row, the Bootleg Fire has generated multiple fire clouds that rise nearly 6 miles (10 kilometers) into the atmosphere and are “easily visible from 100 to 120 air miles away” (160 to 193 kilometers), authorities said Friday.The conditions that create the clouds were expected to worsen over the weekend.WHAT’S THE SCIENCE BEHIND THESE CLOUDS?When air over the fire becomes super-heated, it rises in a large column. As the air with more moisture rises, it rushes up the smoke column into the atmosphere, and the moisture condenses into droplets. That’s what creates the “fire clouds” that look much like the thunderheads seen before a big thunderstorm.These clouds, however, hold more than just water. Ash and particles from the fire also get swept into them, giving them a dark gray, ominous look.IS THERE SOMETHING EVEN MORE DANGEROUS THAN A ‘FIRE CLOUD’?Yes. When a pyrocumulus cloud forms over a fire, meteorologists begin to watch carefully for its big brother, the pyrocumulonimbus cloud.NASA has called the latter the “fire-breathing dragon of clouds” because they are so hot and big that they create their own weather.In a worst-case scenario, fire crews on the ground could see one of the monster clouds spawn a “fire tornado,” generate its own dry lightning and hail — but no rain — and create dangerous hot winds below. They can also send particulate matter from the smoke column up to 10 miles (16 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.So far, most of the clouds on the Bootleg Fire have been the less-intense fire clouds, but the National Weather Service on Wednesday spotted a pyrocumulonimbus cloud forming on what it called “terrifying” satellite imagery.“Please send positive thoughts and well wishes to the firefighters. … It’s a tough time for them right now,” the weather service said in a tweet.HOW DANGEROUS ARE THESE CLOUDS?Both types of fire clouds pose serious risks for firefighters.Multiple pyrocumulus clouds have been spotted for four consecutive days, and one of them on the southern flank of the fire partially collapsed Thursday, causing dangerous winds and embers to fall on crews.That prompted the emergency evacuation of all firefighters and dirt-moving equipment from that part of the fire line. Authorities say there have been no reported injuries.“We’re expecting those exact same conditions to develop today and even worsen into the weekend,” fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said Friday.WHERE ELSE HAVE THESE CLOUDS FORMED?These types of fire-induced clouds are becoming more common as climate change lengthens and intensifies the wildfire season across the U.S. West and in other places, including Australia.Experts with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said in a news release Friday that they are seeing a “record number” of these fire-induced clouds in North America this summer, including in Oregon, Montana and British Columbia.For example, a wildfire in British Columbia last month that leveled an entire town also generated a pyrocumulonimbus cloud.Blazes in California in 2020 and in the years before have created multiple pyrocumulus clouds, with the Creek Fire in the Fresno area generating a mighty pyrocumulonimbus cloud last fall.Australia’s bush fire siege in January 2020 also produced pyrocumulonimbus clouds that threatened to produce a fire tornado.————Follow Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus.

Largest wildfire in Oregon expands further; new evacuations

Largest wildfire in Oregon expands further; new evacuations

PORTLAND, Ore. — Firefighters scrambled on Friday to control a raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that’s spreading miles a day in windy conditions, one of numerous conflagrations across the U.S. West that are straining resources.Authorities ordered a new round of evacuations Thursday amid worries the Bootleg Fire, which has already destroyed 21 homes, could merge with another blaze that also grew explosively amid dry and blustery conditions.The Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire currently burning in the U.S., has now torched an area larger than New York City and has stymied firefighters for nearly a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior. Early on, the fire doubled in size almost daily and strong winds from the south on Thursday afternoon yet again pushed the flames rapidly to the north and east.The fire has the potential to move 4 miles (6 kilometers) or more in an afternoon and there was concern it could merge with the smaller, yet still explosive Log Fire, said Rob Allen, incident commander for the blaze. That fire started Monday as three smaller fires but exploded to nearly 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) in 24 hours and was still growing, fanned by the same winds, Allen said.Firefighters were all pulled back to safe areas late Thursday due to intense fire behavior and were scouting ahead of the main blaze for areas where they could make a stand by carving out fire lines to stop the inferno’s advance, he said.Crews are watching the fire, nearby campgrounds “and any place out in front of us to make sure the public’s out of the way,” Allen said. He said evacuation orders were still being assessed.The Bootleg fire is affecting an area north of the Oregon-California border that has been gripped by extreme drought. It was 7% contained as of Thursday, when authorities decided to expand previous evacuation orders near Summer Lake and Paisley. Both towns are located in Lake County, a remote area of lakes and wildlife refuges just north of the California border with a total population of about 8,000.It has periodically generated enormous smoke columns that could be seen for miles — a sign that the blaze is so intense it is creating its own weather, with erratic winds and the potential for fire-generated lightning.Meanwhile, a fire near the northern California town of Paradise, which burned in a horrific 2018 wildfire, caused jitters among homeowners who were just starting to return to normal after surviving the deadliest blaze in U.S. history.Chuck Dee and his wife, Janie, returned last year to Paradise on the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada to rebuild a home lost in that fire. So when they woke up Thursday and saw smoke from the new Dixie Fire, it was frightening, even though it was burning away from populated areas.“It made my wife and I both nervous,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.The Dixie Fire was tiny when it began on Tuesday, but by Thursday morning it had burned 3.5 square miles (9 square kilometers) of brush and timber near the Feather River Canyon area of Butte County northeast of Paradise. It also moved into national forest land in neighboring Plumas County.There was zero containment and officials kept in place a warning for residents of the tiny communities of Pulga and east Concow to be ready to leave.The Dixie Fire is part of a siege of conflagrations across the West. There were 71 active large fires and complexes of multiple fires that have burned nearly 1,553 square miles (4,022 square kilometers) in the U.S., mostly in Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have swept the region, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the American West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.In the Pacific Northwest, firefighters say they are facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall than early July.A wildfire threatening more than 1,500 homes near Wenatchee, Washington, grew to 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) by Thursday morning and was about 10% contained, the Washington state Department of Natural Resources said.About 200 firefighters were battling the Red Apple Fire near the north-central Washington city renowned for its apples. The fire was also threatening apple orchards and an electrical substation, but no structures have been lost, officials said.———Associated Press writer Adam Beam in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

Oregon heat wave victims older, lived alone, had no AC

Oregon heat wave victims older, lived alone, had no AC

A preliminary report released Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, found most people who perished in last month’s record-smashing heat wave were white, male, older and socially isolatedBy GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 8:36 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePORTLAND, Ore. — Most people who perished in last month’s record-smashing heat wave in Oregon’s most populous county were white, male, older and socially isolated, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday in Portland.Initial tallies show that heat was likely the cause of death for 71 residents of Multnomah County, home to Oregon’s largest city. The heat has been officially confirmed as the cause of death in 54 of those people. Some residents’ bodies were not found for up to a week after the worst of the heat had passed, a fact that authorities said supports the role of social isolation in the deaths. The average age was 70.“Many of them were our elders, those who need our care the most, and many were all alone,” County Chair Deborah Kafoury said.Three consecutive days of extraordinary temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, which usually experiences mild summers, shattered all-time records and sent public health officials scrambling between June 25 and June 28. Temperatures in Portland reached triple digits for three days, peaking at 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 Celsius) as records fell across Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada.Oregon blamed 116 deaths on the heat, Washington state reported at least 91 and officials in British Columbia say hundreds of “sudden and unexpected deaths” are likely due to the soaring temperatures. More people died from the heat in the greater Portland area this June than in the entire state over the past 20 years, authorities said Tuesday.An initial scientific analysis by World Weather Attribution found that the deadly heat wave would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change that added a few extra degrees to the record-smashing temperatures.“The heat that settled over our county, over our family and friends, was life-threatening, and it arrived decades ahead of our best predictions for when this kind of climate disruption should first appear,” said Kafoury, who grew up in Portland without air conditioning.“The climate disruption we all feared would happen someday is happening right now and we all need to work together, as a county, as a resilient community, as neighbors, to be prepared.”State emergency management officials acknowledged Monday that 750 people who called an information line over the blistering hot weekend were unable to get through because of a shortage of operators. They struggled to get rides to cooling centers and others endured such long wait times to request a ride that they instead called 911.Tuesday’s report focused specifically on the Portland metropolitan area, where the death toll was highest.More than three-quarters of those who died lived alone, 55% lived in apartments or other multi-unit housing and, of those, nearly half lived on the third floor or above. Almost a quarter had no source of cooling — not even a fan — while seven victims had air conditioning but it was broken or had not been turned on.Over 90% were white and 63% were male. Two people were found dead in their vehicles and one person who perished had an air conditioning unit that could not keep up with the scorching temperatures.Most of the deaths were reported to authorities on or after June 29, when the worst of the heat had passed, authorities said.“I think we’ve learned a really hard lesson and I’m sorry that we’re going to using this event in the future to help convey the risk that heat poses,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, a county health officer.In advance of the heat, authorities opened three cooling centers and nine libraries for those without air conditioning. County employees also called and sent text messages to thousands of vulnerable residents enrolled in various assistance programs and instructed property managers and developers of low-income housing to check on their residents twice a day during the peak heat.Dozens of teams also roamed the city handing out water, wet towels, misting devices and electrolytes and checking on the homeless population.A total of three people died in two different apartment complexes dedicated to housing vulnerable people, many of them transitioning from homelessness or recovering from drug addiction. Two more died in an assisted living facility; those deaths are being referred to the state for further investigation.“County employees worked through the night, every night,” Kafoury said. “And that’s why when death reports started to come in we were devastated and we still are devastated.”———Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

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