Bootleg Fireplace Rising in Oregon; Dixie, Tamarack Fires develop in California
- Oregon’s massive bootleg fire, now 616 square miles in size, was only 32% contained as of Wednesday morning.
- A total of 78 major forest fires are burning in 13 states, most of them in the western United States
- Arid conditions, drought and record breaking heat waves have all created the conditions for such large fires to start.
The largest forest fire in the country grew on Wednesday as smoke from dozens of flames spread across the country in the west.
Oregon’s massive bootleg fire, covering 617 square miles, was 32% contained as of Wednesday morning. The fire ravaged the southern portion of the state and spread up to 4 miles daily, propelled by gusty winds and critically dry weather that turned trees and undergrowth into a tinder box.
The fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest merged with a smaller fire on Tuesday and has repeatedly breached a perimeter of treeless dirt and fire retardants to halt its advance.
“We’re going to be there as long as it takes to lock this monster up safely,” said incident commander Rob Allen.
With at least 70% of the fires in Oregon caused by human activity, campfires will go into effect in all state-managed parks and forests east of Interstate 5 on Thursday, the state’s Department of Forestry said in a press release.
The new restriction aims to preserve the state’s already compromised fire fighting resources for “existing large fires as well as new fires that may occur,” the department said.
Fire bans in the National Forests Mount Hood, Gifford Pinchot and Willamette were enacted on July 1 to prevent the fires from spreading on the weekend of the fourth. Since then, nearly half a million acres of land in Oregon have been burned.
“This is not going to return to normal any time soon,” said Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection at ODF, at a news conference Tuesday.
At least 2,000 homes were evacuated during the fire and 5,000 are threatened. At least 70 houses and more than 100 outbuildings went up in flames.
“I would classify this fire season as historic so far in terms of the amount of resources we have used, how often we have used – within three weeks we have mobilized six fires – and that is the earliest and most significant mobilization to date”, Mariana Ruiz-Temple of the Oregon Fire Marshal’s office told CNN on Tuesday.
A total of 78 major forest fires are burning in 13 states, most of them in the western United States, said the National Interagency Fire Center on Wednesday, affecting more than 1.3 million acres of land. That’s an area bigger than Rhode Island.
“More than 20,700 firefighters and support personnel are responsible for incidents,” said the NIFC.
Fires grew on both sides of California’s Sierra Nevada. In Alpine County, the Tamarack Fire caused evacuations of several communities and grew up68 square miles of no containment as it crossed state lines into Nevada. The Dixie Fire, near the deadly 2018 Paradise Fire, spanned more than 133 square miles and threatened tiny communities in the Feather River Valley area.
More:Thick smoke from wildfires in the west retreats thousands of kilometers and clouds the skies over NYC
Dry conditions, drought, and record breaking heat waves have all created the conditions to start such large flames. Climate change has made the west much warmer and drier over the past 30 years and is likely to make the weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
Pacific Gas & Electric plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines to prevent its fraying network from igniting forest fires when electrical devices collide with millions of trees and other vegetation in drought-stricken California.
More:From clouds of fire to fire tornadoes: this is how forest fires can create their own weather
The forecast for Wednesday in the west was not good: “Extreme drought, gusty winds and the continued threat of dry lightning could result in critical fire weather,” said the National Weather Service.
“These conditions range from the northern Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin to the northern Rocky Mountains, where fire guards and red flag warnings have been issued,” the weather service said.
Tony Galvez fled the Tamarack fire in California at the last minute with his daughter on Tuesday, finding that his home had disappeared.
“I’ve lost all my life, everything I’ve ever had. What matters are the children, ”he said when taking calls from relatives. “I have three teenagers. You will go home to a moonscape. “
Contributors: Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; Wesley Lapointe, Salem Statesman Journal; The Associated Press