President Donald Trump will travel to California on September 14 to take stock of the fires that are devastating the entire western United States. The fires have killed 27 people since the beginning of summer, burned more than two million hectares of land since the beginning and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
The White House announced on Saturday that “President Donald Trump will travel to California on Monday where he will be briefed on the state of the fires. A visit which was much awaited in which millions of hectares went up in flames this year in Western part of the US which has recorded 19 more victims this week only in the states of Oregon, Washington and California.
The U.S. president is scheduled to meet with emergency services officials on the front lines of fighting the fires that have already burned a record 1.2 million hectares in California this year. Adding to the burned vegetation in Oregon and Washington, wildfires have consumed more than two million hectares, even though the fire season does not theoretically end until November.
Climate change on the agenda, experts say
For local authorities as well as many experts, the scale of these forest fires, which extend from Canada to Mexico, is linked to climate change, which aggravates chronic drought and causes extreme weather conditions.
This is also the opinion of Joe Biden, President Trump’s Democratic opponent in the November presidential election, who noted Saturday’s incident as “an existential threat”. He took on Donald Trump, a notorious climate sceptic, to task.
“President Trump may seek to deny reality, but the facts are undeniable. We absolutely must act to avoid a future marked by an endless deluge of tragedies, such as the one suffered by American families in the West today,” he said in a statement.
500,000 people at risk in Oregon
In Oregon, more than 400,000 hectares were burned to the ground and seven people were killed this week. Dozens more people are still missing. A total of 500,000 people are at risk in the state, and just over 40,000 people were evacuated by midday on Friday.
About fifteen families from the small town of Estacada, evacuated earlier this week, found refuge in the parking lot of a university in Gresham (20 km east of Portland).
Sheltered in camper vans, caravans or tents, they can’t wait to get home to see if their houses are still standing. On Saturday, some residents had returned to Estacada, where thick smoke still hung over the town and the streets were almost deserted.
Some residents, sometimes heavily armed, patrolled the streets in search of intruders, alarmed by unconfirmed reports of looting in evacuated areas.
In neighboring California, the week’s toll rose to 11 victims of the flames on Saturday, including nine in Butte County alone, still traumatized by the memory of the November 2018 fires that killed 86 people and reduced the city of Paradise to ashes. Eight people had already died in the August fires.
The only good news of the day was what rescue workers initially thought was a victim was actually a charred, resin laboratory skeleton.