- Oregon’s massive Bootleg Fire, now 616 square miles in area, was only 32% contained as of Wednesday morning.
- A total of 78 large forest fires burn in 13 states, most in the western United States
- Dry conditions, drought and record heat waves all created the conditions for such fires.
The country’s largest wildfire escalated on Wednesday, as smoke from dozens of wildfires burning in the western United States spread across the country, leading to hazy skies as far east as Boston and New York.
Oregon’s massive Bootleg Fire, now 616 square miles in area, was only 32% contained as of Wednesday morning. The Oregon Blaze ravaged the southern part of the state and spread for up to four miles a day, driven by gusts of wind and extremely dry weather that transformed trees and undergrowth in powder keg.
The fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest merged with a smaller blaze nearby on Tuesday, and it repeatedly pierced a perimeter of treeless, fire-retardant land intended to stop its progress.
“We’re in there for as long as it takes to safely contain this monster,” Incident Commander Rob Allen said.
At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at one point during the fire and 5,000 more threatened. At least 70 houses and more than 100 outbuildings caught fire.
“I would call this fire season so far historic in terms of how much resources we’ve deployed, how many times we’ve deployed – in a three week period we’ve mobilized for six conflagrations – and this is the first and largest mobilization to date, “Mariana Ruiz-Temple of the Oregon Fire Marshal’s Office told CNN on Tuesday.
A total of 78 large wildfires are burning in 13 states, most in the western United States, the National Interagency Fire Center said on Wednesday, with more than 1.3 million acres of land affected. It is an area larger than Rhode Island.
“More than 20,700 forest firefighters and support personnel are assigned to the incidents,” NIFC said.
Fires have also multiplied on both sides of the Sierra Nevada in California. In Alpine County, the Tamarack fire caused the evacuation of several communities and reached 61 square miles without containment. The Dixie Fire, near the site of the deadly 2018 Paradise Fire, was over 90 square miles and threatened tiny communities in the Feather River Valley area.
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Dry conditions, drought and record heat waves all created conditions conducive to such fires. In addition, climate change has made the West much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
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The forecast for Wednesday in the West was not good: “Extreme drought, gusty winds and the lingering threat of dry lightning could create high to critical fire weather,” the National Weather Service said.
“These conditions extend from the northern Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin north of the Rockies, where fire weather watches and red flag warnings have been issued,” the weather service added.
Tony Galvez fled the Tamarack, California fire on Tuesday with his daughter at the last minute and later found his home was missing.
“I lost my whole life, everything I ever had. The children are what will count, ”he said as he answered calls from his relatives. “I had three teenagers. They will return home to a lunar landscape.
Contribution: The Associated Press