Extreme heat and dry brush fuel 83 wildfires ravaging 13 states across the nation — predominately in the western region. Fire season came earlier than predicted in Oregon, where the Bootleg Fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest has burned 394,407 acres, according to The Statesmen Journal on July 21, 2021.
The perimeter of the Bootleg Fire moved eastward, merging with the Log Fire, increasing the acreage by at least 11,000. At least 2,000 wildland firefighters and National Guard troops are among the agencies diligently working to contain the perimeter by creating fuel breaks. Currently, reports indicate only 32 percent of the blaze’s borders are contained. However, the fire itself is not contained.
Since starting on July 6, the Bootleg Fire ravaged an area larger than the city of Los Angeles or half the size of Rhode Island. Of the seven fires burning in Oregon as of July 21, Bootleg Fire is the fourth-largest in the state’s history and likely to surpass the third-largest, the Buzzard Complex Fire in 2014, which burned 395,747.
The largest to date is the Long Draw Fire that scorched 557,028 acres in 2012. The second is the 2002 Biscuit Fire that left 500,000 acres scarred, which began on July 7 when lightning ignited five small fires that merged less than 10 days later. It was not declared extinguished until December 31.
Officials indicate it is likely the Bootleg Fire will continue to ravage the landscape and wildlife until Oregon’s post-summer weather begins in earnest. At this point, it seems plausible, with the continued lightning strikes, that this fire will remain burning for months to come.
Bootleg Fire: A Combination of Decades-Long Drought and Recent Extreme Heat
Like all others currently burning Western states, the Bootleg Fire is feeding off of brush dried by decades-long drought. It is a seemingly endless cycle; every year after winter/spring, rains and snow end, ground cover sprouts greenery only to be dried out because the aquifer levels are lower than normal. Heatwaves, like the recent one that crippled the same region earlier this month, dry greenery creating a tinderbox awaiting either human carelessness or lightning to strike.
Climate crisis experts’ voices have grown louder since the mid-1900s; they have cajoled and tried to educate everyone who would listen — the root of the problem is human beings. But nearly half of Americans polled in the last year do not comprehend the science behind climate change or deny its existence.
This inferno is so large, the Bootleg Fire is altering typical weather. Meteorologists believe the region’s temperature will be about 10 degrees higher than it would under normal circumstances. The fires’ smoke has spread eastward. Much of the Northeast woke to hazy smoke-filled skies thanks to the fires burning in the west. Some airports were forced to delay flights or redirect them due to the smoke levels.
Health experts warn people with respiratory problems to remain indoors with windows closed should the air quality becomes unhealthy.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
BBC News: Oregon Bootleg Fire: Evacuations as largest US fire burns 364,000 acres
CNN: The Bootleg Fire in Oregon is so large, it’s creating its own weather; by Joe Sutton, Michael Guy, and Holly Silverman
CNN: More ready to evacuate in Oregon as massive Bootleg Fire passes 340,000 acres; by Keith Allen, Joe Sutton, and Susannah Cullinane
USA Today: ‘Monster’ Bootleg Fire in Oregon grows as dozens of blazes char western US; Oregon announces campfire ban as conditions worsen; by Doyle Rice
Statesmen Journal: Oregon wildfires: 20 of the state’s biggest since 2002; by Zach Price and Hailey Rein
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of BLM Oregon & Washington’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Michael Pellant/BLM Courtesy of USFWS Headquarters’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License