The Bootleg Fire was just one of many wildfires that burned across the western United States.
Crews had to flee the fire lines of the Oregon fire late Thursday after a dangerous “fire cloud” began to collapse, threatening them with strong downdrafts and flying embers. An initial review on Friday showed that the pirate fire destroyed 67 homes and 117 outbuildings overnight in one county. Authorities were still counting losses in a second county where flames soar up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) per day.
The conflagration forced 2,000 people to evacuate and threatens 5,000 buildings, including homes and smaller structures in a rural area north of the California border, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said. Active flames are emerging along 200 miles (322 kilometers) of the fire’s perimeter, he said, and is expected to merge with a smaller, but equally explosive blaze, at dusk.
The Bootleg Fire is now 377 square miles (976 square kilometers), larger than the New York City area, and is mostly not contained.
“We are likely to continue to see fire growth in miles and miles of active firing line,” Krake said. “We continue to add thousands of acres a day, and it has the potential every day, looking into the weekend, to continue those 3-4 mile runs.”
A Red Flag weather advisory was issued for the area through Saturday night.
Hell has locked out firefighters for a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior, including ominous fire clouds that form from superheated air rising up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) above of fire.
“We expect those exact same conditions to continue and work through the weekend,” Krake said of the fire-induced clouds.
At first, the fire doubled in size almost daily, and strong winds on Thursday again pushed the flames away quickly. Similar winds of up to 30 mph were expected on Friday.
It is burning an area north of the California border that has been hit by extreme drought, like most of the American West.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves linked to climate change have hit the region, making it difficult to fight forest fires. Climate change has made the West much hotter and drier in the last 30 years and will continue to make the climate more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The fire was most active on its northeast flank, driven by southerly winds into the rural communities of Summer Lake and Spring Lake. Paisley, east of the fire, was also in danger. All cities are 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 fires in Washington state, Oregon and California as a wildfire siege grips the drought-stricken West. There were 70 large active fires and multiple fire complexes that have burned nearly 1,659 square miles (4,297 square kilometers) in the US, the National Interagency Fire Center said.
In the Pacific Northwest, firefighters said in early July they were facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall.
In California, the Tamarack Fire in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest grew to about 10 square miles (25 square kilometers) as of Saturday morning, prompting evacuations in the Markleeville area of Alpine County. The fire caused the cancellation of Saturday’s “Death Ride,” a 103-mile (165-kilometer) bike ride in the so-called California Alps over three Sierra Nevada mountain passes.