USA TODAY US Edition
Massive Ore. wildfire continues to burn, outside help called in
A massive wildfire in Oregon that’s grown to about half the size of Rhode Island has prompted fire officials to call for help from outside the Pacific Northwest to prepare for additional blazes across the parched state.
The Bootleg Fire, now some 606 square miles in size, is burning 300 miles southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges. Fortunately, the fire is located in a remote area away from population masses.
The worry is dry conditions, a drought and the recent record-breaking heat wave in the region have created tinderbox conditions, so resources such as fire engines are being recruited from places including Arkansas, Nevada and Alaska.
At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 are threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames.
The forecast for the next few days was ominous: “The combination of extreme drought, gusty winds, and thunderstorms will produce fire weather concerns for the northern Great Basin and northern Rockies through Thursday,” the National Weather Service said.
“Thunderstorms ahead of an advancing cold front entering the Pacific Northwest today are likely to produce little rainfall, but lightning could reach the dehydrated terrain and spark new wildfires,” the weather service said. “Red flag warnings are in effect and stretch from northern California to Wyoming.”
A red flag warning means critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will shortly.
In all, 83 large wildfires are burning across 13 states, most of them in the western U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said Tuesday. Almost 20,000 firefighters were battling the blazes, which encompass nearly 1.3 million acres of land.
Sixteen large, uncontained fires burned in Oregon and Washington state alone Monday.
Further south, in north-central California, the 93-squaremile Dixie Fire burned on Tuesday, threatening more than 800 homes and other structures, Cal Fire said. The fire, which is only 15% contained, expanded in size overnight, and it’s still moving to the north and east.
Monday, the fire generated a thunderstorm over itself, hurling lightning bolts and whipping up gusty winds.
The fire’s edge is a few miles from the town of Paradise, California, which burned almost to the ground three years ago in a wildfire that killed 85 people.