US: Largest wildfire grows, forces evacuation of wildlife station
The largest wildfire in America torched more dry forest in Oregon and forced the evacuation of a wildlife research station on Monday as firefighters had to retreat from the flames for the ninth consecutive day due to erratic and dangerous fire behavior. Firefighters were forced to pull back as flames jumped fire-retardant containment lines and pushed up to four miles into new territory.
It has grown to an area about size of LA
The destructive Bootleg Fire in south-central Oregon is just north of the California border and grew to more than 476 square miles (1,210 sq km), an area about the size of Los Angeles.
This fire is a real challenge: Incident commander
Fire crews were also rushing to corral multiple slop fires patches of flames that escaped fire lines meant to contain the blaze before they grew in size. One of those smaller fires was already nearly four square miles (10 sq km) in size. "We are running firefighting operations through the day and night. This fire is a real challenge," said Joe Hessel, incident commander.
Blaze has burned at least 67 homes and 100 buildings
On Monday, the fire reached the southern edge of Sycan Marsh, a privately owned wetland that hosts thousands of migrating birds and is a key research station on wetland restoration. The blaze, which was 25% contained, has burned at least 67 homes and 100 buildings while threatening thousands more in a remote landscape of forests, lakes, and wildlife refuges.
Natural features of the area act as funnel for wind
At the other end of the state, a fire in the mountains of northeast Oregon grew to nearly 19 square miles (49 sq km). Natural features of the area act as a funnel for wind, feeding the flames and making them unpredictable, officials said.
A wildfire south of Lake Tahoe jumped a highway
The Elbow Creek Fire that started on Thursday has prompted evacuations in several small, rural communities around the Grande Ronde River. It was 10% contained. In California, a growing wildfire south of Lake Tahoe jumped a highway, prompting more evacuation orders, the closure of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the cancellation of an extreme bike ride through the Sierra Nevada.
About 500 fire personnel were battling the Tamarack Fire
The Tamarack Fire, which was sparked by lightning on July 4, had charred about 36 square miles (93 sq km) of dry brush and timber as of Monday. About 500 fire personnel were battling the flames on Sunday, focusing on preserving life and property with point protection of structures and putting in containment lines where possible, the US Forest Service said.
Wildfires will become more frequent and destructive in the West
Extremely dry conditions and heatwaves tied to climate change have swept the region, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Firefighters said in July they were facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall.
At least 16 major fires burning in Pacific Northwest alone
Pacific Gas & Electric equipment may have been involved in the start of the Dixie Fire. PG&E equipment has repeatedly been linked to major wildfires, including a 2018 fire that ravaged the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. At least 16 major fires were burning in the Pacific Northwest alone, according to the Forest Service.