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Two wildfires in Oregon expected to merge in coming days

High winds blow embers and flames across Hwy 168 as the Creek Fire rapidly expands Tuesday near Shaver Lake, Calif Wildfires have burned more than 3.1 acres in California this wildfire season. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI
High winds blow embers and flames across Hwy 168 as the Creek Fire rapidly expands Tuesday near Shaver Lake, Calif Wildfires have burned more than 3.1 acres in California this wildfire season. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Two large wildfires in Oregon, each larger than 130,000 acres, are expected to merge in the coming days near Portland, emergency officials said Friday.

The larger of the two blazes, the Beachie Creek Fire -- formerly known as the Santiam Fire -- burned 186,856 acres as of early Friday. The wildfire broke out Aug. 16 in Santiam Canyon and has killed two people.

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It's about 1 mile south of the Riverside Fire, which has burned about 130,000 acres in Mount Hood National Forest. The blaze is nearing the Estacada, Molalla and Scotts Mills areas, officials said.

Experts said that despite more favorable weather conditions, the two wildfires will eventually merge. Cooling temperatures and rain early next week should improve firefighting conditions.

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The two blazes are among several that have burned some 1.3 million acres in the state, killing at least three people and causing smoke to billow across the region. Air quality site IQAir.com, which ranks the world's Top 100 cities with the worst air quality, moved Portland into its No. 1 spot Friday.

Nearby cities have also taken up spots in the ranking, including Seattle at No. 2, Vancouver at No. 3 and San Francisco at No. 3.

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To the south, dozens of wildfires have burned more than 3.1 million acres in California, making the 2020 wildfire season its worst in recorded history. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention said fires this season have burned 26 times more land than fires did as of this time last year.

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Among the fastest-growing blazes in the state is the North Complex Fire in Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties. As of Friday morning, it had burned more than 252,000 acres and was 23% contained.

The complex of fires is responsible for 10 deaths, making it the most deadly blaze in the state. Elsewhere, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire has killed five and one each has died in the CZU Lightning, August, Tatham and Hills fires.

With one death in Washington's Cold Springs Fire, the overall death toll from the 2020 wildfires season in the West is at least 23.

Cal Fire said smoke cover in Northern California will help keep temperatures cooler into the weekend, and an increase in humidity should help firefighters contain the fires.

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