Wildfires on West Coast leave at least 35 people dead, evacuees describe having 'lost everything'

Firefighters conduct a back burn operation along CA-168 during the Creek Fire as it approaches the Shaver Lake Marina on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020 in Shaver Lake, CA. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The death toll from dozens of wildfires burning along the West Coast has grown to least 35, as gusty winds on Monday threatened to fan flames in parts of the region.

The wildfires from California to Washington state have burned nearly 5 million acres, nearly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, with many returning to find only charred rubble.

“I lost everything except what’s in that bag – everything,” one evacuee told FOX12 Oregon about the devastation in Marion County from the Beachie Creek Fire.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Sunday that two more people have died from wildfires in Northern California, bringing the statewide total to at least 24.

Seven people remain missing in the area due to the North Complex West Zone fires, according to Honea.

Cal Fire said as of Monday, the North Complex has scorched some 261,488 acres and is only 26% contained.

Some 3,351 fire personnel are assigned to the blaze, but firefighters are also among those losing their homes.

Volunteer firefighter Chief Reed Rankin has spent 28 years as a volunteer firefighter but still managed to lose his home in Berry Creek due to the blaze.

“I found out my home burned down. Everything you ever had collected, all your photo albums, everything you ever had in your life was just right there and it’s all gone,” Rankin told FOX40.

Six of the seven volunteer firefighters in the town also lost their homes.

“I don’t want to take any time off because I don’t want to sit there and think about what I lost,” Rankin told FOX40. “So, I’m just going to stay here and help my community.”

In Oregon, firefighters spent the weekend setting and holding containment lines nearly a week after the wildfires ignited across the state.

Community members in Clackamas County on Sunday were taking it upon themselves to prevent neighborhoods from going up in flames.

"Firemen have got their hands full, too, they can’t be out here fighting in the brush- they’re trying to save structures," Steve Jones told FOX 12.

At least 10 people have been killed in the past week throughout Oregon. Officials have said more people are missing from other fires, and the number of fatalities is likely to rise, though they have not said how high the toll could go as they search.

Authorities last week reported as many as 50 people could be missing after a wildfire in the Ashland area. But the Jackson County sheriff’s office said late Saturday that four people had died in the blaze and that the number of missing was down to one.

In addition to the 24 deaths in California, one person died in Washington state. Thousands of homes and other buildings have burned.