The largest wildfire in the United States has caused more dry forest landscapes in Oregon On Sunday, one of dozens of major fires blazed across the West with very dangerous fires looming in the coming days.
The devastating Bootleg Fire north of the California border has grown to more than 476 square miles (1,210 square kilometers), an area roughly the size of Los Angeles.
It’s one of at least 70 big wildfires It burns across the western United States and neighboring states.
The choppy winds fueled the Bootleg Fire, creating dangerous conditions for firefighters, Sarah Grassi, a spokeswoman for the firefighting operation, said. “We still have a lot of weather problems,” she said Sunday. “The wind was… hampering our efforts most of the time.”
Authorities have expanded evacuations that now affect about 2,000 residents of a largely rural area of lakes and wildlife refuges. The fire, which was 22% contained, burned at least 67 homes and 100 outbuildings while threatening thousands more.
At the other end of the state, a fire in the mountains of northeastern Oregon had grown to more than 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) by Saturday night.
The Elbow Creek fire that began Thursday has led to evacuations in several small, remote communities around the Grand Ronde River about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Walla Walla, Washington.
In California, growing wildfires south of Lake Tahoe blazed a highway, leading to more evacuation orders and the cancellation of an extreme bike ride through the Sierra Nevada on Saturday.
The Tamarack fire, which was triggered by lightning on July 4, has charred nearly 29 square miles of dry brush and timber as of Sunday morning.
The fire was threatening the small town of Markleville, near the California-Nevada state line. Authorities said they destroyed at least two buildings.
A notice posted on the 103-mile (165 kilometer) Death Ride said several communities in the area had been evacuated and all riders had been ordered to evacuate the area.
The fire left thousands of cyclists and spectators stranded in the small town as they raced to get out.
Kelly Bennington and her family were camping near town on Friday so that her husband could take part in his ninth flight when they were asked to leave. They watched smoke rise throughout the day, but were surprised by the rapid spread of the fire. “It happened very quickly,” Bennington said. “We left our tents, a hammock and some food, but we got most of our things, pushed our two children into the car and left.”
Forecasters forecast very serious fires with a possible lightning strike through at least Monday in both California and southern Oregon. “With fuel so dry, any thunderstorm has the potential to start a new fire,” the National Weather Service in Sacramento, California, said on Twitter.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves associated with climate change have engulfed the region, making wildfires even more difficult. Climate change has made the West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and increase the frequency and destruction of wildfires.
Firefighters in July said they encounter conditions more commonly in late summer or fall. The Dixie Fire in California, near the site of 2018’s deadliest US fire in recent memory, was 15 percent contained and covered 39 square miles on Sunday. The fire was in River Valley, northeast of Paradise Township, California, and survivors of that horrific fire that killed 85 people watched the new fire burning with caution.
Montana officials have identified a firefighter who sustained serious burns when flames engulfed a crew who was starting a small fire there. Dan Stephenson was rushed to a hospital in Salt Lake City after the winds turned abruptly Friday, as his fire truck swept near the Wyoming border. A second firefighter escaped unhurt and called for help.
The National Interagency Fire Center said there are about 70 active, clustered multiple fires that have burned approximately 1,659 square miles in the United States. The US Forest Service said at least 16 major fires were burning in the Pacific Northwest alone.