Diminishing winds and rising humidity helped firefighters battling deadly blazes in Oregon and California, but with dozens of people still missing, authorities in both states feared that the receding flames could reveal many more dead across the blackened landscape.
The known death toll from fires in the three states stood at 28 and was expected to rise sharply. Most of the deaths were in California and Oregon.
Oregon's emergency management director said officials were preparing for a possible “mass fatality event,” and the state fire marshal was abruptly placed on administrative leave.
In California, smoke that painted skies orange also helped crews corral the state's deadliest blaze of the year. The smoke helped blocked the sun, reducing temperatures and raising humidity, officials said.
Oregon authorities have not released an exact death count, but at least eight fatalities were reported from the blazes that have taken a toll from one end of the state to the other. Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that tens of thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes.
Two large blazes threatened to merge near the most populated part of Oregon, including the suburbs of Portland. More than 40,000 Oregonians have been evacuated and about 500,000 are in different levels of evacuation zones.