Erratic winds and parched Oregon forests added to the danger for firefighters on Monday as they battled the largest wildfire in the United States
BLY, Oregon – Erratic winds and parched Oregon forests added to dangers for firefighters on Monday as they battled the largest wildfire in the United States, one of dozens of fires in several states in the west.
The destructive Bootleg fire was considered one of the largest in modern Oregon history, burning more than 476 square miles (1,210 square kilometers), an area the size of Los Angeles. The blaze just north of the California border was 25% contained.
Meteorologists have predicted an extremely dangerous fire weather until at least Monday with possible lightning in California and southern Oregon.
Thousands of people were already facing evacuation orders, including some 2,000 people residing in the largely rural areas of lakes and wildlife refuges near the blaze, which burned at least 67 homes and 100 outbuildings across threatening many others.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves linked to climate change swept through the region, making forest fires more difficult to fight. Climate change has made the West much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
Firefighters said in July they were facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall.
Pyrocumulus clouds – literally translated as “clouds of fire” – complicated containment efforts for the Dixie Fire in northern California on Sunday, as well as flames that spread to remote areas with steep terrain that is more difficult for crews to reach, officials said. New evacuation orders have been issued in rural communities near the Feather River Canyon.
The Dixie Fire remained 15% contained and covered 29 square miles (74 square kilometers). The blaze is northeast of the city of Paradise, California, and survivors of the horrific blaze that killed 85 people watched with suspicion as the blaze burned down.
A growing forest fire south of Lake Tahoe blasted onto a highway, prompting more evacuation orders, the closure of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the cancellation of an extreme bike ride through the Sierra Nevada.
The Tamarack fire, which was triggered by lightning on July 4, had charred about 28.5 square miles (74 square kilometers) of dry brush and wood by Sunday evening. The fire threatened Markleeville, a small town near the California-Nevada border. He destroyed at least two structures, authorities said.
A notice posted on the 165-kilometer Death Ride website on Saturday said several communities in the area had been evacuated and ordered all cyclists to clear the area. The blaze left thousands of bikers and spectators stranded in the small town and scrambled out.
Kelli Pennington and her family were camping near town on Friday so her husband could go on his ninth hike when told to leave. They had watched the smoke build up during the day, but were caught off guard by the rapid spread of the fire.
“It happened so fast,” Pennington said. “We left our tents, hammock and some food, but we got most of our stuff, pushed our two kids into the car and drove off. “
About 800 firefighters were assigned to fight the blazes on Sunday evening, “focusing on the preservation of life and property with ad hoc protection of structures and the establishment of containment lines where possible”, the US Forest Service said.
A fire in the mountains of northeastern Oregon reached more than 18 square miles (48 square kilometers) on Sunday. The Elbow Creek fire that started Thursday caused evacuations in several small isolated communities around the Grande Ronde River about 50 kilometers southeast of Walla Walla, Wash. It was 10% content.
The area’s natural features act as a funnel for the wind, fueling the flames and making them unpredictable, officials said.
There have been about 70 large active fires and multiple fire complexes that have burned nearly 1,659 square miles (4,297 square kilometers) in the United States, the National Interagency Fire Center said. The US Forest Service said at least 16 major fires were burning in the Pacific Northwest alone.