‘Unprecedented’ Wildfires Scorch Oregon and Washington, Force Thousands to Flee
Wildfires raged through Oregon and Washington Monday and Tuesday, prompting evacuations, blanketing Seattle in unhealthy levels of smoke and destroying nearly all of a small Washington farming town.
The town of Malden in eastern Washington lost 80 percent of its structures including its fire station, post office, City Hall and library after a fast-moving blaze roared through on Monday, NPR reported.
"The scale of this disaster really can't be expressed in words," Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said in a statement reported by NPR. "The fire will be extinguished, but a community has been changed for a lifetime. I just hope we don't find the fire took more than homes and buildings. I pray everyone got out in time."
Per @PalouseNews these photos show the near total destruction of Malden, Wa. hit by an unbelievably fast wildfire j… https://t.co/1hQQAVp6ML— Zanders (@Zanders)1599523505.0
As of early Tuesday, there were no reports of injuries from the fire.
In the rest of Washington state, fires consumed more than 330,000 acres in a 24-hour period, fueled by strong winds and dry vegetation, NBC News reported.
"More acres burned yesterday than in 12 of the last entire fire seasons in the state of Washington," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Tuesday press conference, as NBC News reported.
Yesterday, 330,000 acres burned in WA. That’s more than 12 of the last 18 entire fire seasons. In a single day. https://t.co/Op7UEfhTNA— Governor Jay Inslee (@Governor Jay Inslee)1599603875.0
The two largest fires burning in the state are the 174,000-acre Pearl Hill Fire, in Douglas County, and the 163,000-acre Cold Springs Fire near Omak. Neither was contained at all as of Tuesday's press conference. The Babbs-Malden Fire, the blaze that destroyed Malden, had spread to 8,943 acres and was also not contained.
West of the cascades, a fire burned through Graham, Washington Monday, destroying six homes and forcing around 100 people to evacuate, The Seattle Times reported.
"You didn't have time to pack clothes, it was like, get out, now," 55-year-old construction worker Tim VanBrocklin told The Seattle Times. "It was pretty nasty here, embers flying around our faces."
A drone shot capturing the destruction and devastation after a brush fire exploded overnight in #Graham. Firefighte… https://t.co/h043ssF4HM— Graham Fire & Rescue (@Graham Fire & Rescue)1599573628.0
The wind that drove the fires also carried their smoke into the Seattle area Monday night and Tuesday morning.
"It was so smoky you couldn't see across the water, you couldn't see the ferry boats coming across until the last few moments," Andy Lipscomb, who works in Seattle, told KOMO News Tuesday.
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency scientists predict that air quality in the area will remain at "unhealthy" or "unhealthy for sensitive groups" levels through Wednesday and possibly into Thursday as easterly winds continue to blow.
Smoke arrives. #wawx A short animation of satellite images late this afternoon (as downloaded from the excellent C… https://t.co/znJnvM1pdE— NWS Seattle (@NWS Seattle)1599528618.0
In neighboring Oregon, wildfires have prompted thousands to flee their homes, ABC News reported.
One of those people was Jody Evans of Detroit, Oregon.
"Fire on both sides, winds blowing, ash flying — it was like driving through hell," Evans told NewsChannel 21. "Did you lose everything, or is the only thing you saved yourself?"
There were 35 active fires burning more than 367,279 acres in the state, ABC News reported early Wednesday morning. The fires prompted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to issue an emergency conflagration declaration. This frees up state resources to battle blazes too big for local crews to handle on their own, USA TODAY explained.
"This is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state, and frankly for the entire West Coast," Brown said, as USA TODAY reported.
Listen up: We're in an unprecedented fire event. Several significant, growing fires across the state continue to sp… https://t.co/TVaCf3n7lQ— Governor Kate Brown (@Governor Kate Brown)1599605189.0
The climate crisis has increased fire risk in the Pacific Northwest.
"We can't attribute single fire events to climate change. But the trends in large fire events that have been occurring in the region are consistent with expected trends in a warming climate," University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences assistant professor Brian Harvey said in April.
Fires are encouraged by wetter winters that swell vegetation growth and drier summers that dry it out, creating more fuel, Washington state climatologist Nick Bond told The Seattle Times. This weather pattern is expected to increase as the climate warms.
Inslee, who ran for president with a campaign centered on climate action, acknowledged these changes.
"This is an unprecedented and heartbreaking event … We're living in a new world. This is not the old Washington," Inslee said Tuesday, as The Seattle Times reported. "A fire that you might've seen that was going to be OK over time isn't OK anymore because the conditions are so dry, they're so hot, they're so windy — because the climate has changed."
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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