Satellite images reveal the massive wildfire in Oregon that is now the biggest in the nation and covers 201,923 acres – larger than the size of New York City.
The Bootleg Fire began on July 6 in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, in Klamath Falls, and doubled in size last weekend. By Tuesday, the wildfire completely torched 54 buildings and 21 homes in its wake, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
It is still unclear what first ignited the flames, but fire officials said they spread quickly because of a dangerous mix of extremely dry air, gusty winds and inordinately high temperatures from a heat dome that is keeping the West Coast in scorching temperatures.
Portland Fire and Rescue told KOIN 6 News that it could take weeks for crews to fully assess the damage and the fire may not be completely contained until late fall. On Wednesday, there were 1,338 personnel battling the blaze with 22 hand crews, 133 engines and 14 aircrafts.
Satellite images reveal the massive wildfire in Oregon that is now the biggest in the nation and covers 201,923 acres
The Bootleg Fire doubled in size last weekend and covers more land than New York City. It began on July 6 in the Fremont-Winema National Forest
The blaze has completely torched 54 buildings and 21 homes in its wake, and is still not contained
A map from the Oregon State fire marshal office shows the fire’s impact on the surrounding area. As of Wednesday, the blaze covered an area larger in size than New York City
Over the weekend, the Klamath County Sheriff´s Office ordered about 100 homes to evacuate as the flames continued to spread
‘Conditions were so extreme that firefighters needed to disengage and move to predetermined safety zones,’ the U.S. Forest Service said in an incident report. ‘Fire managers evaluated conditions and looked for opportunities to reengage firefighters safely.’
Al Lawson, Incident Commander of PNW Team 10, told his crew that the fire would be stronger than what they’re used to fighting and more unpredictable. ‘As you go out there today—adjust your reality. We have not seen a fire move like this, in these conditions, this early in the year. Expect the fire to do things that you have not seen before,’ he said in a statement.
Local resident Tim McCarley described the fire to KPTV-TV: ‘Like a firenado, it would go up and then it would just go this direction then that direction. 60, 70, 80 feet, catch these trees over here and then just explosions, boom, boom, boom, boom as these trees were exploding.’
Over the weekend, the Klamath County Sheriff´s Office ordered about 100 homes to evacuate and warned that it would cite or even arrest people who ignored orders to evacuate areas impacted by the blaze.
Areas were alerted to flee under level one, two or three evacuation orders. Level 1 means ‘get ready’ to leave should conditions get worse, Level 2 means ‘get set’ because the fire is approaching and Level 3 means ‘go now’ or you could perish.
McCarley and his family were under Level 3 orders on Friday as the blaze reached their neighborhood. ‘We barely made it out of there. They told us to get the hell out cause if not, you´re dead. I don’t know if my place is lost. I’m a retired deputy sheriff out of Wasco County and my whole life savings, everything that we have together that we put into this place, it was part of my bucket list and I don’t know if it’s there or what.’
McCarley’s family has been staying at the Red Cross shelter in Klamath Falls, where volunteers said about 100 people went to escape the fire starting Sunday night.
Local resident Shane Duran watched a smoke plume from the Klamath Falls wildfire from neighboring town Bly
Plumes of smoke from the Bootleg Fire rose over a playground on Monday
Firefighters were briefed before fighting the flames and told that the fire would be stronger than what they’re used to fighting and more unpredictable
Someone posted a sign in the Fremont-Winema National Forest thanking the firefighters and first responders working in extreme heat to tend the flames
‘Everybody does the best they can under the circumstances, but it’s really hard when people don’t know if they’ll have a home to go back to,’ said Darrell Fuller, a Red Cross volunteer.
The fire also drastically disrupted service on three transmission lines providing up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity to California, and California Independent System Operator repeatedly asked for voluntary power conservation over the weekend and on Monday. By Tuesday, the California Independent System Operator announced that the conservation efforts worked and the power grid was no longer suffering.
There are currently three other fires across the state: The Jack Fire in Douglas County, the Grandview Fire near Oregon’s Crooked River National Grassland and the Bruler Fire near Detroit. The Jack Fire is burning through more than 12,500 acres and is 15 percent contained. The Grandview Fire has burned over 5,700 acres and is 5 percent contained. And the Bruler Fire is about 60 acres and is not contained at all, the agency said.
Meanwhile, as of Wednesday, about 68 wildfires were burning a total of about 1 million acres across 12 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
In Northern California, a combined pair of lightning-ignited blazes dubbed the Beckwourth Complex was less than 25% surrounded after days of battling flames fueled by winds, hot weather and low humidity that sapped the moisture from vegetation. Evacuation orders were in place for more than 3,000 residents of remote northern areas and neighboring Nevada.
The fires erupted as the West was in the grip of the second bout of dangerously high temperatures in just a few weeks. A climate-change driven megadrought is contributing to conditions that make fires even more dangerous, scientists say.
The National Weather Service said the heat wave appeared to have peaked in many areas, and excessive-heat warnings largely expired by Tuesday. However, temperatures still may hover in the triple digits in some areas through Friday because of a heat dome of static high-pressure hot air that traps the heat in one location.
‘This time, the core of the high pressure and heat has been anchored farther to the south and has allowed excessive heat to build up across the region,’ AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty told USA Today.
The fires erupted as the West was in the grip of the second bout of dangerously high temperatures in just a few weeks
The National Weather Service says the heat wave appeared to have peaked in many areas, and excessive-heat warnings were largely expired by Tuesday
The 10-day outlook calls for temperatures in most of the western United States to remain above average
The sweltering temperatures are being caused by a heat dome of static high-pressure hot air which traps the heat in one location
A study by a group of leading climate scientists found that the recent conditions would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without human-caused climate change.
The World Weather Attribution group said that global warming, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, made the June heat wave at least 150 times more likely to happen.
The scorching conditions saw the all-time record daily temperature broken three days in a row in British Columbia.
Last month was the hottest June on record in North America, according to data released by the European Union’s climate monitoring service.
Human activity drove global temperatures up, stoking increasingly fierce storms, extreme heat waves, droughts and wildfires.
The World Meteorological Organization and Britain’s Met Office said in May there was a 40 percent chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily surpassing 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures within the next five years.
The past six years, including 2020, have been the six hottest on record.