A Line of Fire South of Portland and a Yearslong Recovery Ahead

“We have to make sure that we keep them socially distanced,” she said. On Friday, signs at each door said masks were required to enter, and hand sanitizer was at each table in the cafeteria, where families ate Subway sandwiches and pork tamales.

Miny Williams, 90, and Lois Gould, 83, were cleaning their hands with alcohol wipes in a quiet corner of one bunkhouse. They had been there for three days.

Ms. Williams, balancing on a walker and wearing a name tag and a mask, said a sheriff’s deputy had helped her escape from her mobile home on Tuesday as the fire rushed toward her small town of Phoenix, much of which was destroyed.

“After being evacuated, I’m very pleased to be here actually,” she said.

On Friday, authorities charged a 41-year-old man with starting part of that inferno, the Almeda Fire, one of this year’s most destructive blazes. It burned through much of two towns along Interstate 5 in southern Oregon but is now 50 percent contained.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said the fire started on Tuesday in two areas, and that police officers arrested the man, Michael Jarrod Bakkela, near one of those points of origin. Authorities charged him with arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangering. Mr. Bakkela, who could not be reached on Friday, had denied starting the fire when he was arrested, the authorities said.

All told, the fires in Oregon have burned about one million acres, Gov. Kate Brown said. California’s footprint was even larger: Fires there have now consumed about 3.1 million acres — a modern record.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California acknowledged that poor forest management over decades had contributed to the severity of the state’s wildfires in recent years. But he said that serious droughts and record-breaking heat waves were undeniable evidence that many of the most dire predictions about climate change had already arrived.

“California is America in fast forward,” he said. “What we’re experiencing right now is coming to communities all across the country.”


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