NATIONAL NEWS

Calls For Outside Help As Extreme Weather Fuels Oregon Fires

Jul 20, 2021, 5:34 AM
In this photo provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a DC-10 tanker drops retardant over th...
In this photo provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a DC-10 tanker drops retardant over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Meteorologists predicted critically dangerous fire weather through at least Monday with lightning possible in both California and southern Oregon. (Bootleg Fire Incident Command)
(Bootleg Fire Incident Command)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The threat of thunderstorms and lightning has prompted officials in fire-ravaged Oregon to ask for help from outside the Pacific Northwest to prepare for additional blazes as many resources are already devoted to a massive fire in the state that has grown to a third the size of Rhode Island.

The 537-square-mile (1,391-square-kilometer) Bootleg Fire is burning 300 miles (483 kilometers) southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges. Evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California.

But eyeing how the Bootleg Fire — fueled by extreme weather — keeps growing by miles each day, officials with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon are asking for more outside crews to be ready should there be a surge in fire activity there.

“Although the lightning activity predicted for early this week is expected to occur east of us, we are prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best,” Mike McCann, an assistant fire staff, said Monday in a statement released by the national forest.

The worry is that dry conditions, a drought and the recent record-breaking heat wave in the region have created tinderbox conditions, so resources like fire engines are being recruited from places like Arkansas, Nevada and Alaska.

Meanwhile, to the east, the Bootleg Fire’s jaw-dropping size contrasted with its relatively small impact on people underscores the vastness of the American West and offers a reminder that Oregon, which is larger than Britain, is still a largely rural state, despite being known mostly for its largest city, Portland.

If the fire were in densely populated parts of California, “it would have destroyed thousands of homes by now,” said James Johnston, a researcher with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry who studies historical wildfires. “But it is burning in one of the more remote areas of the lower 48 states. It’s not the Bay Area out there.”

At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Thick smoke chokes the area where residents and wildlife alike have already been dealing with months of drought and extreme heat. No one has died.

Pushed by strong winds from the southwest, the fire is spreading rapidly to the north and east, advancing toward an area that’s increasingly remote.

Evacuation orders on the fire’s southern edge, closer to more populous areas like Klamath Falls and Bly, have been lifted or relaxed as crews gain control. Now it’s small, unincorporated communities like Paisley and Long Creek — both with fewer than 250 people — and scattered homesteads that are in the crosshairs.

But as big as the Bootleg Fire is, it’s not the biggest Oregon has seen. The fire’s size so far puts it fourth on the list of the state’s largest blazes in modern times, including rangeland fires, and second on the list of infernos specifically burning in forest.

These megafires usually burn until the late fall or even early winter, when rain finally puts them out.

The largest forest fire in modern history was the Biscuit Fire, which torched nearly 780 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) in 2002 in the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon and northern California.

The Bootleg Fire is now about 25% contained.

On Monday, flames forced the evacuation of a wildlife research station as firefighters had to retreat for the ninth consecutive day due to erratic and dangerous fire behavior. Sycan Marsh hosts thousands of migrating and nesting birds and is a key research station on wetland restoration in the upper reaches of the Klamath Basin.

The Bootleg Fire was one of many fires burning in a dozen states, most of them in the U.S. West. Sixteen large uncontained fires burned in Oregon and Washington state alone on Monday.

Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

And in Northern California, authorities expanded evacuations on the Tamarack Fire in Alpine County in the Sierra Nevada to include the mountain town of Mesa Vista. That fire, which exploded over the weekend and forced the cancellation of an extreme bike ride, was 36 square miles (93 square kilometers) with no containment.

Thunderstorms expected to roll through Monday night could bring winds to fan the flames and lightning that could spark new ones, the National Weather Service said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier arrives at the French Mediterranean port of Marseille in J...
Ellie Kaufman, CNN

US Navy recovers jet blown off aircraft carrier from bottom of ocean

A U.S. Navy team recovered a military jet from a depth of 9,500 feet in the Mediterranean Sea on August 3 after the aircraft had blown overboard during "unexpected heavy weather" in July, a release from U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.
22 hours ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC...
ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press

Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate

Former President Donald Trump says the FBI is conducting a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate.
22 hours ago
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta attend the "Grease" 40th anniversary screening in August 2018 ...
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

John Travolta pays tribute to Olivia Newton-John

Actor John Travolta, who co-starred with Olivia Newton-John in the hit movie musical "Grease," has posted a statement in tribute to the late singer.
22 hours ago
FILE...
MICHAEL GOLDBERG, Associated Press/Report for America

Viral video of Mississippi arrest sparks investigation

An incident involving a white Mississippi Highway Patrol officer and three Black men is under investigation after a viral video showed the officer putting a handcuffed man into a chokehold and wrestling him into a ditch.
22 hours ago
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Historian David McCullough poses for a picture at the History Makers Gala a...
Associated Press

David McCullough, Pulitzer-winning historian, dies at 89

David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose lovingly crafted narratives on subjects ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to Presidents John Adams and Harry Truman made him among the most popular and influential historians of his time, has died. He was 89.
22 hours ago
Lexington Fire Department Search and Rescue team perform a targeted search on Highway 476 where thr...
SEUNG MIN KIM, CHRIS MEGERIAN and BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press

Biden surveys flood damage in Kentucky, pledges more US help

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are witnessing firsthand the damage from deadly and devastating storms that have resulted in the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Calls For Outside Help As Extreme Weather Fuels Oregon Fires