After 27 deaths in last week, West Coast firefighters brace again for tough conditions

David Ryder/Getty ImagesBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC NEWS

(SAN FRANCISCO) — After a devastating week of wildfires in the western U.S., meteorologists say Monday could bring even worse conditions.

California fire officials are emphasizing the historic nature of the wildfires currently raging through the state as the death toll and total number of scorched acres continue to grow.

More than 3.3 million acres have been burned in the Golden State this year — more than 27 times more than in 2019, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Firefighters in the state have not seen anything like this season in more than a century, when the Great Fire of 1910 blazed through more than 3 million acres.

A fire weather watch is in effect Monday over the Northern Sierra Nevada region that spans California and Nevada, and forecasters say that changes in the weather could mark the return of critical fire conditions during the week.

At least 27 people in three states have died in the last week as a result of the fires. The two latest deaths were reported late Sunday in California’s Butte County.

In total, 35 people have died this year in West Coast wildfires.

Currently, 29 major fires are burning in California. The August Complex Fire in Mendocino and Humboldt counties is now the largest in state history — currently at more than 877,000 acres and 28% containment — while three other fires this season rank in the top 10 all-time, according to the department.

More than 13 people are currently missing in Butte County, where the North Complex Fire has raged through more than 258,000 acres. It is currently at 26% containment.

Residents in the City of Arcadia were ordered to evacuate Sunday morning due to the Bobcat Fire, which has been causing poor air quality in Los Angeles for the past week. That fire has scorched through more than 31,000 acres and is 6% contained as it travels up the mountains.

Crews in California are currently exhausted, with some battling fires for nearly two months. Nearly 8 million gallons of water and 4.6 million gallons of retardant have been used so far.

Fire crews attempted to get the containment up over the weekend as temperatures cooled and humidity levels increased.

However, the season is far from over, as the Santa Ana wind season has yet to begin. Monday could bring elevated fire risk while a fire weather watch is in effect over the Northern Sierra, potentially impacting the North Complex with gusty winds. A red flag warning is also in effect Sunday afternoon through Sunday evening for much of Northeastern California due to gusty winds and low humidity, which could bring the return of critical fire next week.

On Saturday, Oregon state fire marshal Jim Walker was placed on administrative leave for unspecified reasons and then submitted his resignation. Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton appointed Mariana Ruiz-Temple as Walker’s replacement.

More than a million acres have burned in Oregon. On Sunday, the Riverside Fire burned more than 133,790 acres and was 0% contained and the Lionshead Fire had burned through more than 146,000 acres and was 5% contained.

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