Firefighters have been fighting the Bootleg fire for nearly a week in the state of Oregon, just north of the California border.
Firefighters have been struggling to control a raging hell in southeastern Oregon that stretches in windy conditions for miles a day, one of the numerous forest fires striving for resources throughout the territory western portion of the United States.
Teams had to flee the lines of fire Thursday afternoon after a dangerous “cloud of fire” began to collapse, threatening them with strong downward currents and flying embers. An initial review Friday showed the Bootleg fire destroyed 67 homes and 117 outbuildings overnight in a county. Authorities were still counting the losses in a second county where flames are rising to six miles a day.
The fire has forced 2,000 people to do so evacuate and threaten 5,000 buildings including smaller homes and structures in a rural area just north of the California border, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said. Active flames are rising along 322 km (200 miles) of the perimeter of the fire, he said, and are expected to merge with a smaller but equally explosive fire in the afternoon.
The Bootleg Fire is now 194 square miles (75 square miles), larger than the New York City area and mostly uncontained.
“We will probably continue to see the growth of fire along miles and miles of active line of fire,” Krake said. “We continue to add thousands of acres a day, and it has the potential every day, facing the weekend, to continue these races for three to four miles.”
Hell has hampered firefighters for a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behaviors, including nefarious clouds of fire that form from superheated air that rises to a height of up to 10 km (six miles) by over the fire.
“We expect the exact same conditions to continue and get worse over the weekend,” Krake said of the clouds caused by the fire.
At first, the fire doubled almost daily and strong winds on Thursday pushed the flames back quickly. Winds similar to gusts of up to 48 kilometers per hour (30 mph) were expected on Friday.
It is burning an area north of the California border even extreme, like most of the American West.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves linked to climate change have ravaged the region, making forest fires more difficult to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier for the past 30 years and will continue to make the climate more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
The flame was most active on its northeast flank, pushed by southerly winds toward the rural communities of Summer Lake and Spring Lake. Paisley, east of the fire, was also at risk. All cities are located in Lake County, a remote area of lakes and wildlife refuges with a total population of about 8,000.
The Bootleg Fire is one of at least a dozen major wildfires in the states of Washington, Oregon and California, as a forest fire siege is applied across the drought-affected West. There were 70 large active fires and multiple fire complexes that have burned about 4,297 square kilometers (1,659 square miles) in the U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said.
In the Pacific Northwest, firefighters say they face more typical conditions in late summer or fall than in early July.
About 200 firefighters were fighting but had little control over the 44-square-mile (17-square-mile) red apple fire near the city of Wenatchee, Washington, known for its apples. The flames threatened apple orchards and an electrical substation, but no buildings have been lost, officials said.