Wildfire smoke that posed a health hazard to millions choked the west coast of the US as firefighters battled deadly blazes that obliterated some towns and displaced tens of thousands of people.
The death toll from the fires in California, Oregon and Washington stood at 31 and was expected to rise sharply. Most of the fatalities were in California and Oregon.
Oregon’s emergency management director said officials were preparing for a possible “mass fatality event” if many more bodies turn up in the ash. And the state fire marshal resigned after abruptly being placed on administrative leave. The state police superintendent said the crisis demanded an urgent response that required a leadership change.
Those who still had homes were not safe in them. Half a million Oregonians were under evacuation warnings or orders to leave. With air contamination levels at historic highs, people stuffed towels under doors to keep smoke out. Some even wore N95 masks in their own homes.