Untamed Bootleg Fire Burns 340,000 Acres, Prompting Evacuation of Thousands in Oregon
With dramatic changes in temperatures in the past month, the entire of North America has been going through a destructive series of wildfires. In the US state of Oregon, the country’s largest active wildfire, the Bootleg Fire has burned through over 340,000 acres of forests and grasslands, forcing thousands of people to evacuate.
Unpredictable winds, fire clouds that spawn lightning and flames leaping over firefighters are confounding efforts to tackle the Bootleg Fire, which is sweeping through southern Oregon.
Considered one of the largest blazes in Oregon’s history, over 2,000 fire-fighters are trying to control the Bootleg Fire. Since beginning on June 6, it has devoured an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. Burning 300 miles southeast of Portland, it has destroyed over 160 buildings and threatens thousands more.
Currently, there are over 80 major fires raging across 13 US states, prompted by heatwaves and high winds, which are not likely to change for a couple of coming weeks. The fires have burned through more than 1.1 million acres, mostly in the western states.
#NationalFireNews: 80 wildfires have burned 1,157,976 acres in 13 states. More than 19,700 wildland firefighters & support personnel & 35 Type 1 & Type 2 incident management teams are assigned to wildfires. To date, 34,941 wildfires have burned 2,509,231 acres. #FireYear2021 pic.twitter.com/JpY7STe4TN
— National Interagency Fire Center (@NIFC_Fire) July 19, 2021
Montana reported the largest wildfires with 18, with Idaho close behind at 17. Nearly 20,000 firefighters and personnel are assigned to control the major 80 wildfires that are presently burning across the country. After Oregon, the states with the most acres burned are California, Idaho and Alaska.
Oregon’s Bootleg Fire has been burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest along the Oregon and California border since the beginning of this month. Named after Bootleg Spring, it has forced at least 2,000 residents from mostly rural areas to abandon their homes. At least 160 homes and buildings have been destroyed by the fire so far.
Two evacuation centers have been set up for residents in several cities, including Klamath Falls and Redmond. Meanwhile, the situation is expected to remain the same as temperatures are predicted to be between 10 and 15 degrees above normal.
The fire has been creating a towering cloud of hot air, smoke and moisture that has produced lightning. Such conditions have forced the firefighters to seek safety zones and wait for chances to recommence the tackling operations. Moreover, the hot weather and dry conditions are making it much harder to control the fire.
Fire spokesperson Katy O’Hara said,
We are experiencing extremely dry conditions with record to near record temperatures. Conditions on the ground due in part to the historic drought have accelerated the fire season. The combination of the weather and fuel conditions have led to rapid growth of the fire. The scope and scale of the Bootleg Fire will require a season ending weather event such as a significant storm that is either widespread wetting rain or snow, which in southern Oregon typically occurs in the late fall.
At a time when climate change is prompting wildfires to be larger and more intense, this fire is one of the most extreme ones, so big and hot that it is now affecting winds and generating its own weather.
This fire has been burning for two weeks, and it has mostly exhibited one or more forms of extreme fire behavior. It led to rapid changes in the winds and other conditions that have caused the flames to spread swiftly in the forest area, ignited whole groves at once and blown embers to long distances, further igniting spot fires elsewhere.
The intensity and extreme heat of wildfires can coerce wind to go around them, generate clouds and sometimes even create rare fire tornadoes, which are swirling vortexes of heat, smoke and high wind.
There have been reports of fire whirls, small spinning vortices of air and flames that are typical of many wildfires. Fire whirls are small, a few dozen feet in diameter at their largest and last up to a couple of minutes, and can be controlled.
However, there were some indications that the Bootleg Fire might have created a fire tornado, which can be several thousand feet in diameter, have wind speeds in excess of 65 miles an hour, rise thousands of feet into the air and last much longer while inflicting severe damage to the surroundings.
The state was hit by an extreme heatwave in late June, when record temperatures in some places were broken by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The heatwave dried out the vegetation, proffering suitable fuel for the wildfires.
Wildfires have already burned through more than 1.2 million acres of the country this year, mostly in the western region. The National Interagency Fire Center recorded over 4,000 blazes so far in 2021.
While America is experiencing devastating wildfires, Western Europe is struggling with flash flooding – both of which are triggered by dramatic climate change.
Here are some of the horrifying images of the Bootleg Fire, burning through Oregon.