- At least 26 people have died in the states of California, Oregon and Washington due to wildfires
- In the state of Oregon, the evacuation of half a million people was ordered
- Many of those who have been forced to evacuate are low-income immigrants
At least 26 people have lost their lives and hundreds of homes have been burned to the ground by the more than 100 fires that continue to burn in the western United States.
In accordance with USA Today, the fires have consumed an area equal to the size of New Jersey.
More than half a million people, representing more than 10% of Oregon’s population, have received immediate evacuation orders as the fires remain uncontained.
On Friday, the National Interagency Fire Center said fires that had been fanned by the wind had also reached Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Of the 26 reported fatalities, 20 have been in California.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), among that total there are seven more that add to the number of deaths that were counted in the Thursday.
One death was recorded in Washington state. This is a 1-year-old boy who died while his family tried to flee the flames of a wildfire, according to Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley.
“This is the first death we have had. And there are too many, there are too many, ”said Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz through tears. “No one should ever fear the loss of their child,” she added.
Five other people have died in Oregon.
Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, told a news conference Friday that they were bracing for more deaths.
“We know that we are dealing with fire-related deaths and we are preparing for a mass death incident, based on what we know,” Phelps said.
Many of the residents who have been forced to evacuate are low-income immigrants, according to The Associated Press.
Artemio Gutiérrez contemplated the remains of his mobile home helplessly. His children, sitting in the box of his pickup, waited while he collected some objects: a ceramic jug with a smiley face, some toy houses and a cross formed by two pieces of molten glass.
Gutiérrez, a single father of four, was working in a nearby vineyard when he saw heavy smoke creeping over the Rogue River Valley. He barely had time to pick up his children from the mobile home park where they live with dozens of Mexican families and they escaped with the clothes they were wearing.
“I’m going to start over. It’s not easy, but is not impossible either. You have to be strong in situations like this, ”said Gutiérrez, who had just returned from her mother’s funeral in Mexico.
Whole parks of mobile homes inhabited mostly by Mexican immigrants working in the vineyards or in construction were reduced to ashes.
“We are like one family. We have known each other for years, since we arrived or even before, ”Gutiérrez said of his neighbors at the Talent Mobile Estates park. “We live from day to day.”
Many workers in the fields of crops in California on Friday faced more difficult and risky working conditions for their health due to the smoke produced by the current fires in the state, according to the Efe agency.
However, in areas severely affected by the fire such as Sonoma County, or in the Central Valley, farmworkers continue their duties despite difficulties.
In a photo on the Twitter account of the Unión de Campesinos (UFW) union, Diego – who did not mention his last name – a worker from Watsonville, Santa Cruz County northwest of Los Angeles, shared a photo of the field where he worked with a strong presence smoke.
Although it is the obligation of contractors and employers to provide the worker with all the necessary elements to protect against these types of conditions, some do not comply with the regulations, so the UFW is following up to report the cases to the Occupational Health and Safety Division. from the California Department of Industrial Relations (Cal / OSHA).
Filed Under: US Fire Deaths
“At this time it is very dangerous to be outside in certain areas such as the Salinas Valley,” Armando Elenes, UFW secretary-treasurer, explained to Efe, indicating that the index of the presence of microparticles currently suspended in the air in that area is approximately 560.
Cal / OSHA’s code of regulation indicates that employers must provide N-95 masks to their workers when the index “is 151 or greater and where employers should reasonably anticipate that employees could be exposed to smoke from wildfires. ”.
“With that current rating of more than 500, wearing a mask is not optional, it is mandatory, and yet the ranchers are not complying with the regulations and although they received masks, some have not distributed them,” Elenes denounced.
The peasants continue to work out of necessity even at the risk of their health.
Filed Under: US Fire Deaths
“There is nothing heroic about what we are doing,” Erick, a farm worker from King City, Monterey County, commented on UFW Twitter, sharing a photo showing the cloudy red sky.
“We work out of necessity,” he added.
With two dozen large fires that have consumed thousands of hectares between August and September in the state, the air stale by smoke can seriously affect the health of these workers.
The air highly polluted by the fires joins the risk of contagion of COVID-19 that these workers currently face, who, due to the conditions of their work, are often unable to maintain social distance and other protective measures.
Filed Under: US Fire Deaths
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