World

Oregon fire: Devastated residents pick up the pieces

ESTACADA, OREGON: Their tears were the only drops of water to touch the parched Oregon soil in a long time.

And their pain is as intense as the record heat that surrounds them.

"This is just stuff. We're gonna move on from it," said Ms Margi Wyatt, holding back tears as she stared at her burned-out mobile home, destroyed by one of the fires raging through the US state of Oregon.

The 70-year-old fled 50km from her home to Estacada in Portland's south-east as the huge and still-uncontained Riverside fire raced through.

The blaze devastated the mobile home site, located on a wooded hill next to a road.

All the properties in Ms Wyatt's row were destroyed - but homes just 10m away were left unscathed.

It is one of scores of infernos that have burnt through a record 2 million ha and left at least 27 people dead.

With smoke still rising from the hill, she and her husband, Mr Marcelino Maceda, have come back to sift through the remains and pick up anything that may have escaped the flames.

About 10km to the north, Mr Matt Watts, semi-automatic rifle in hand and pistol in his belt, is standing watch at his property to keep potential pillagers at bay.

"I hear nothing but looters and arson on the radio (scanner)... so I decided to hang around and protect (my property)," Mr Watts said.

"I hope to be a deterrent for somebody that means harm."

For days, rumours have spread that radical leftists have been lighting fires in Oregon - false information that was debunked by the local branch of the FBI.

Facebook has started removing false claims that the fires were started by various left-wing and right-wing groups, a spokesman for the social media company said on Saturday.

It decided to move to a stricter approach after "confirmation from law enforcement that these rumours are forcing local fire and police agencies to divert resources from fighting the fires and protecting the public", spokesman Andy Stone said. - AFP, REUTERS

WORLD