Officials are warning more Oregon residents should prepare to evacuate as the Bootleg Fire scorches more than 340,000 acres, with a national fire official warning it could take a major weather event to subdue the flames.
There are currently 80 large wildfires raging in 13 states across the US, burning more than 1.1 million acres, mostly in western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). Montana has reported the most large wildfires with 18, and Idaho is close behind with 17, the NIFC said. Nearly 20,000 wildland firefighters and personnel are assigned to the 80 large wildfires currently burning across the United States.
After Oregon, the state’s with the most acres burned are California, Idaho and then Alaska.
Oregon’s Bootleg fire, which has been burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest along the Oregon and California border since July 6. As of Monday morning, the fire has burned 303,791 acres with a containment of 25%, according to data from InciWeb, the US clearinghouse for wildfire information.
The Bootleg Fire has created conditions so extreme that firefighters have had to seek safety for the ninth day in a row. According to a Monday update from Inciweb, firefighters were forced to find safety zones and wait for opportunities to re-engage in the battle.
“We are running firefighting operations through the day and all through the night,” said Joe Hessel, incident commander. “This fire is a real challenge, and we are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future.”
Hot temperatures have been making the blaze harder to tackle. “Weather’s really against us. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be dry and air’s going to be unstable which helps the heat raise faster, which brings in more air. All things that are negative for firefighters and positive for fire. So it’s going to be a real battle today,” Operations Section Chief John Flannigan said during his Sunday morning briefing.
Fire spokesperson Katy O’Hara told CNN that weather conditions need to change in order for the fire to be extinguished.
“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,” O’Hara said.
“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,” she said.