A raging inferno continued to spread across southeastern Oregon Saturday morning, fueled by dangerous “fire clouds” that are containing heat and spreading embers across the drought-stricken region.
The Bootleg fire is now larger than the area of New York City, The Associated Press reported. Active flames driven by gusty winds are surging along 200 miles of the blaze’s perimeter.
It’s just 22 percent contained, US Forest Service data shows, and is expected to merge with another fire nearby by nightfall. While the oppressive heat that blanketed the Pacific Northwest has eased, the National Weather Service nevertheless has a “red flag” up for the region, warning that dry air and afternoon winds will create “increasingly critical conditions for portions of the area.”
The blaze has forced 2,000 people to evacuate and is threatening 5,000 buildings in the largely rural area just north of the California border, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake told the AP. It destroyed 67 homes and 117 other buildings in one county overnight Thursday, with damage assessments in a second county continuing.
The Bootleg fire is the largest of 70 major wildfires raging across more than 1 million acres in 12 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, which compiles statistics on wildfires across the country.
It’s just one of 10 in Oregon alone, including the Elbow Creek fire in the northeastern part of the state that the Oregonian reported roared through 10,000 acres of grassland since Thursday, prompting evacuation orders for nearby communities.
Should Bootleg merge with the nearby Cutoff fire as expected, the system would then be known as a “complex” fire. One of the largest such fires burning now is the Snake River Complex fire, which has consumed 102,866 acres on the Oregon-Idaho border.