With every passing hour, hundreds of animals are being burned alive as massive, deadly wildfires continue to choke Northern California, Oregon, Washington and other parts of the Western United States (US). Dubbed ‘The North Complex Fire’, media are calling it “a climate reckoning”. On September 15, The US National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) said that at least 87 wildfires were burning in 11 states.
The fires have been raging since August 17 after lightning caused the initial blaze. Animals were trapped in the charred ruins of towns across several states. Some were found dead, while others still clung to life.
While a few lucky pets got out just in time, dozens more were reported missing. Volunteers are scrambling to rescue pets and livestock wandering around bewildered, stranded, lost, injured, or dying because of the blaze.
“The pain and suffering these vulnerable and helpless creatures are experiencing is horrifying. The fire is obliterating everything – and everyone – in its path. Terrified dogs, cats, and livestock are prisoned by walls of fire with no way out of this inferno. It’s harrowing,” said Paul Seigel of Network for Animals.
Wildlife is also under threat. The fire is proving deadly even to fire-adapted species. Young and small animals are particularly at risk because they cannot run fast enough to escape the flames. Smoke inhalation is another problem and many animals suffocate.
The fires are still burning and “are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire,” said Randy Moore, Regional Forester for The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region.
The fast-moving fires have wiped out critical populations of endangered species and incinerated habitats that may take years to recover. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is bracing for winter rains that could wash ash and silt into local streams and impact endangered salmon.
Features image credited to: Ringo Chiu_AFP via Getty Images