The Bootleg Fire, now 606 square miles (1,569 square kilometers) in size, has ravaged southern Oregon and is the fourth-largest fire in the state’s modern history. It’s been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by gusting winds and critically dry weather that’s turned trees and undergrowth into a tinderbox.
Fire crews have had to retreat from the flames for 10 consecutive days as fireballs jump from treetop to treetop, trees explode, embers fly ahead of the fire to start new blazes and, in some cases, the inferno’s heat creates its own weather of shifting winds and dry lightning. Monstrous clouds of smoke and ash have risen up to 6 miles into the sky and are visible for more than 100 air miles.
The fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest merged with a smaller nearby blaze Tuesday, and it has repeatedly breached a perimeter of treeless dirt and fire retardant meant to stop its advance.
More evacuations were ordered Monday night, and a red flag weather warning signifying dangerous fire conditions was in effect through Tuesday. The fire is 30% contained.
“We’re in this for as long as it takes to safely confine this monster,” Incident Commander Rob Allen said Tuesday.
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.