Fire engulfs US West coast
PIC: AFP

Deadly wildfires in heavily populated northwest Oregon were growing, with hundreds of thousands of people told to flee encroaching flames while residents to the south tearfully assessed their losses.

People evacuated statewide because fires had climbed to an estimated 500,000 people, which is more than 10 percent of the 4.2 million people in the state, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management reported late Thursday.

One fire approached Molalla, triggering a mandatory evacuation order for the community of about 9,000 people located 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Portland.

According to Daily Mail, wildfires continue to rip through the West Coast leaving at least 23 dead.

Almost 100 major fires continue to rage across 12 states, devastating almost 4.4 million acres and wiping out thousands of homes in their paths.

A police car rolled through the streets with a loudspeaker blaring "evacuate now." Inmates were being moved from a women's prison less than a mile from Interstate 5 in Portland's southern suburbs "out of an abundance of caution," the Oregon Department of Corrections said.

With two large fires threatening to merge, some firefighters in Clackamas County, which includes Molalla, were told to disengage temporarily because of the danger. Officials tried to reassure residents who abandoned their homes, and law enforcement said patrols would be stepped up to prevent looting.

The local fire department said on Twitter: "To be clear, your firefighters are still working hard on the wildfires in Clackamas County. They are taking a 'tactical pause' to allow firefighters to reposition, get accountability & evaluate extreme fire conditions." "We haven't abandoned you," the fire officials said.

Meanwhile, Northern California wildfire that destroyed a foothill hamlet has become the state's deadliest blaze of the year with 10 people confirmed dead - and the toll could climb as searchers look for 16 missing people.

The North Complex fire that exploded in wind-drive flames earlier in the week was advancing more slowly Friday after the winds eased and smoke from the blaze shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to make progress, authorities said.

However, the smoke made for poor visibility and fire helicopters couldn't fly Thursday.

In most parts of the state, red flag warnings of extreme fire danger because of hot, dry weather or gusty winds were lifted.

Meanwhile residents of the small Oregon town of Phoenix, near the California state line along Interstate 5, walked through a scene of devastation after one of the state's many wildfires wiped out much of their community. A mobile home park, houses and businesses were burned, leaving twisted remains on charred ground.

Many of the residents were immigrants, with few resources to draw on.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that 600 homes were burned by the fire that started in Ashland and tore through Phoenix, the Mail Tribune of Medford reported.

Oregon officials haven't released an exact death count for the wildfires but at least four fatalities have been reported in the state. One person was killed in wildfires in Washington.

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