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Fire crews in Oregon reported making progress on two blazes burning on opposite sides of the state as high temperatures and windy conditions that vexed them earlier in the week eased.

On Saturday morning authorities reported that the Almeda Fire in southern Oregon near the California state line was 50 per cent contained and barely grew overnight. That blaze had destroyed about 700 structures.

In northern Oregon, crews were able to establish positions to limit the spread of the much larger Beachie Creek Fire in Clackamas County, south of Portland. They also said that better overnight weather limited the blaze’s growth. There were still no estimates of damage from that fire as crews continue to assess the situation.

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Authorities have said more than 3,880 square kilometres have burned in Oregon during recent days, nearly double the size of a typical year and an area larger than Rhode Island.

Heavy smoke obscures the air over a barn in Molalla, Ore., on Sept. 11, 2020.

Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Oregon officials are urging employers to stop or delay outdoor work, including construction and harvesting, with wildfire smoke blanketing the region.

The Pacific Northwest continues to have some of the world’s unhealthiest air from fires raging in California, Washington and Oregon.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Oregon Health Authority say employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers when air quality becomes unhealthy. That can include halting outdoor work, letting workers with underlying health conditions stay home, and providing N95 masks, as the masks many workers have worn to guard against COVID do not protect against smoke particles.

“During this incredibly challenging and evolving emergency, we are encouraging employers – particularly those with outdoor operations – to take all reasonable and necessary precautions and steps to ensure the safety of their employees,” Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood said in a news release.

Meanwhile, favourable weather conditions were helping more than 16,000 firefighters battling 28 major wildfires across California on Saturday. Containment increased on all the fires, with some quickly approaching full containment. Nonetheless, gusty winds in the forecast for the far northern part of the state on Sunday have prompted warnings of high fire danger.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention says wildfires have burned more than 1.2 million hectares in California since the beginning of this year, killing 19 people and destroying over 4,000 structures.

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Nine people, including a 16-year-old boy, have been confirmed dead since lightning-caused fires that started weeks ago merged into a monster that largely destroyed Berry Creek, a tiny hamlet in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of San Francisco. There was concern that the death toll could climb as crews reach devastated areas. The Butte County Sheriff’s office said 19 people remained unaccounted for.


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