Half million Oregonians told to evacuate as Western wildfires kill 24
SALEM, Ore./MOLALLA, Ore. (Reuters) - Around half a million people in Oregon were ordered to evacuate as dozens of extreme, wind-driven wildfires scorched U.S. West Coast states on Friday, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 24 people, state and local authorities said.
In southern Oregon, an apocalyptic scene of burned residential subdivisions and trailer parks stretched for miles along Highway 99 south of Medford through Phoenix and Talent, one of the worst hit areas, according to a Reuters photographer at the scene.
Blazes jumped from wildfires burning through scrub and forest to suburban firestorms as flames jumped from house to house.
“Everybody out, everybody out!” a man screamed as firefighters tried to douse flames.
The death toll from the siege of fires on the West Coast that began in August jumped to 24 after seven people were found dead late Thursday in torched mountain communities around 85 miles (137 km) north of Sacramento, California, state fire authority Cal Fire reported.
Several Oregon police departments have aimed to debunk misinformation spreading on social media platforms this week, including Facebook Inc FB.O and Twitter Inc TWTR.N, blaming leftist and right-wing groups for wildfires raging in the state.
“Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON,” read a Facebook post from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon on Thursday. “THIS IS NOT TRUE!”
PolitiFact, one of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners, wrote on Thursday on its website that dozens of posts blaming antifa for the wildfires had been flagged by the social media company’s systems, and that collectively the posts had been shared thousands of times.
Antifa, which stands for anti-fascist, is a largely unstructured, far-left movement whose followers broadly aim to confront those they view as authoritarian or racist. U.S. President Donald Trump and some fellow Republicans have in recent months sought to blame the movement for violence at anti-racism protests, but have presented little evidence.