Firefighters were making progress against several significant wildfires on Thursday, the authorities in Oregon and California said, and residents of the Bay Area were able to enjoy smoke-free skies for the first time in weeks.
A storm arriving Thursday night will help to improve air quality in western Oregon and bring moisture “exactly where I would ask for it,” Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said in a news briefing.
But the storm may also bring additional challenges, including winds that could accelerate the growth of existing fires, and lightning that could ignite new ones. The rain could cause landslides, and flash flooding was a worry in the scorched foothills of the Cascades.
Temperatures should remain low with more humidity after the storm, Mr. Grafe said, aiding the significant progress crews have already made. Oregon’s 10 remaining large blazes, including the Beachie Creek Fire, which has burned nearly 200,000 acres east of Salem and forced tens of thousands to evacuate, are mostly between 10 to 20 percent contained.
Firefighters had managed to slow, stall or diminish some of the major fires in California, Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the state fire agency, Cal Fire, said. The August Complex, which has burned almost 800,000 acres north of Sacramento, was 30 percent contained, and the North Complex Fire, stretching 228,000 acres, was 36 percent contained.
Emergency teams continued to search for victims and survivors of the fires, which have killed more than 30 people, destroyed thousands of structures and burned across more than five million acres in three states.
More than 3,000 Oregonians are still being sheltered outside their homes. When Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon visited some of the communities devastated by the Beachie Creek Fire, she said the devastation it wrought was “all-encompassing and shocking.”