Oregon’s largest wildfire ravaged more forest than any other in the country and required the evacuation of a wildlife station. Firefighters had to abandon the scene for the ninth day because of dangerous and unpredictable fire behavior.
Authorities stated that firefighters had to retreat after flames, driven by wind and fueled bone-dry conditions, leapt fire-retardant containment lines, pushing them up to 4 miles in new territory.
The devastating Bootleg Fire in central Oregon was just north of California’s border. It grew to over 476 square miles (1.210 square kilometers), which is about the same area as Los Angeles.
Also, fire crews raced to control multiple “slop fires,” which were small flames that had escaped fire lines and were meant to contain the fire. One of the smaller fires had already grown to nearly 4 miles (10 kilometers) in area. Also, Monday saw thunderstorms with dry lightning. This increased the danger.
Joe Hessel, incident commander, stated that firefighting operations are being conducted throughout the day and night. “This fire presents a challenge and we plan to continue fighting it for the foreseeable future.”
25% contained, the blaze has destroyed at least 67 homes, 100 buildings, and threatened thousands more in remote areas of forests, lakes, and wildlife refuges.
A fire in the mountains of northeast Oregon, at the other end of Oregon, grew to almost 19 square miles (49 km2).
The Elbow Creek Fire, which started on Thursday, has forced evacuations in several rural communities near the Grande Ronde River, about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Walla Walla. It was contained to 10%.
Officials said that natural features in the area act as a funnel for wind and fuel the flames, making them unpredictable.
California was hit by a wildfire that spread south of Lake Tahoe, leading to more evacuations, the closing of the Pacific Crest Trail, and cancellation of an extreme biking tour through the Sierra Nevada.
As of Monday, the Tamarack Fire had scorched approximately 36 square miles (93 km2) of timber and dry brush. It was started by lightning on July 4. Crews were repairing a line that protected Markleeville (a small town near the California-Nevada state border). Authorities claim that it has destroyed at most two structures.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, approximately 500 firefighters were fighting the flames on Sunday. They “focused on preserving life & property with point protection structures and putting into containment lines wherever possible,” they said.
Meteorologists forecast extremely dangerous fire weather and lightning through Monday in California and southern Oregon.
According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento, California, “Any thunderstorm with the very dry fuels has the potential for new fire starts,” they tweeted.
Extremely dry conditions, heat waves linked to climate change have made it difficult to fight wildfires. The West has become warmer and dryer over the past 30 year due to climate change. Wildfires will be more common and more destructive in the future.
According to firefighters, July was characterized by conditions that were more like late summer or fall.
The Dixie Fire in Northern California roared back to life on Sunday. This prompted new evacuation orders for rural communities located near Feather River Canyon. Near the 2018 spot of the most deadly U.S. fire, the wildfire was only 15% contained and covered 39 miles. The fire is located northeast of Paradise in California. 85 survivors watched as it burned.
Pacific Gas & Electric equipment could have been involved in the Dixie Fire’s start, which was reported by California regulators as the nation’s largest utility.
PG&E reported Sunday to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUCC) that a repairman responding to a circuit failure on July 13 found blown fuses in a conductor atop a Pole, a tree leaning against the conductor and a fire at the base.
The Dixie Fire now covers nearly 47 square miles (122 km2), a large portion of which is in remote wilderness. According to the utility, investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection collected equipment from the site.
PG&E equipment has been repeatedly linked to major wildfires. One example is the 2018 fire that ravaged Paradise, killing 85 people.
According to the Forest Service, at least 16 fires were raging in the Pacific Northwest alone.