The monster Bootleg blaze continues to wreak havoc in Oregon, since it first began some two weeks ago. The wildfires have posed a more direct risk to life and property.
The Bootleg blaze has blackened 388,600 acres of desiccated brush and timber in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, about 250 miles south of Portland, since erupting July 6. Only three other Oregon wildfires over the past century have burned more territory.
As of Tuesday, an army of some 2,200 personnel had managed to carve containment lines around 30% of the fire’s periphery, while the blaze expanded farther to the east and north.
Incident commander Rob Allen said in his daily report that tinder-dry fuels within the fire zone would “continue to burn and produce smoke for weeks.”
“Fighting this fire is a marathon, not a sprint,” Allen wrote. “We’re in this for as long as it takes to safely contain this monster.”
At least 67 homes have been destroyed and another 3,400 were listed as threatened, with an estimated 2,100 people under orders to evacuate or be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
The western conflagrations, marking a heavier-than-normal start of the wildfire season, have coincided with record-shattering heat that has baked much of the region in recent weeks and caused hundreds of deaths.
Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat that are symptomatic of climate change.
The Bootleg fire is so large that it has at times generated its own weather, towering pyrocumulus clouds of condensed moisture sucked up through the fire’s smoke column from burned vegetation and the surrounding air.
These clouds can spawn lightning storms and high winds capable igniting new fires and spreading the flames