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Evacuations expand in Lake County as 227,000-acre Bootleg Fire spreads erratically

Towering smoke column from the fast-growing Bootleg Fire
Towering smoke column from the fast-growing Bootleg Fire

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — More Lake County residents living along the eastern edge of Southern Oregon's Bootleg Fire were told to evacuate Thursday as the inferno once more began spreading rapidly and erratically in hot afternoon winds and a nearby, smaller fire gained a foothold.

The more than 227,000-acre Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire currently burning in the U.S., has now torched an area larger than New York City and has stymied firefighters with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior. Some of the evacuations were triggered by a second, smaller fire called the Log Fire to the northeast of the main blaze that expanded to nearly 5,000 acres in the past 24 hours.

The main fire has destroyed 21 homes in an area north of the Oregon-California border that’s been gripped by extreme drought. It was 7% contained as of Thursday, when authorities decided to expand previous evacuation orders near Summer Lake and Paisley. Both towns are located in Lake County, a remote area of lakes and wildlife refuges with a total population of about 8,000.

“We’re trying to determine where is it moving, how far and how fast, to determine what to do with evacuation levels,” said Gert Zoutendijk, spokesman for the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal. “The big word is for everyone in Lake County to be aware and start getting signed up for the alert system, if they have not already.”

On Wednesday, the Bootleg Fire generated enormous smoke columns that could be seen for miles — a sign that the blaze is so intense it is creating its own weather, with erratic winds and the potential for fire-generated lightning.

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News release from ODFW:

Summer Lake Wildlife Area closes due to nearby wildfires; two Wenaha campgrounds closed in northeast

SALEM, Ore. – Due to fire evacuation measures in parts of eastern Oregon, ODFW has closed Summer Lake Wildlife Area (SLWA) and two campgrounds at the Wenaha Wildlife Area.

SLWA has been temporarily closed due to the Bootleg and Log fires. The Lake County Sherriff Office has issued Level 1 and Level 2 evacuation notices for portions of SLWA and the situation continues to change rapidly. Out of an abundance of caution for public, fire fighter safety and future elevated evacuation notices ODFW has decided to temporarily close the entire wildlife area until further notice per OAR 635-008-0050(1). 

Two campgrounds at the Wenaha Wildlife Area are also closed due to wildfires in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. The U.S. Forest Service has issued a Level 2 evacuation order for the Lick Fire in southeast Washington. The evacuation notice extends to the OR/WA state line just north of the wildlife area.

Out of an abundance of caution for public, fire fighter safety and future elevated evacuation notices ODFW has decided to temporarily close the Griz Flats and Headquarters campgrounds per OAR 635-008-0050(1).

ODFW is working with our U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry partners to closely monitor the fire and evacuation levels. If conditions worsen ODFW will close additional portions of both wildlife areas.

InciWeb info on the Lick Creek Fire:

InciWeb info on the Bootleg Fire:

Article Topic Follows: Fire Alert

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The Associated Press


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