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9 firefighters on nearly 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire test positive for COVID-19

Wednesday night operations on the SE corner of the Bootleg Fire
Wednesday night operations on the SE corner of the Bootleg Fire

(Update: Firefighters test positive for COVID-19, quarantined away from fire camp)

LAKEVIEW, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Incident management teams are working closely with local public health officials and the Oregon Health Authority's investigation into nine positive cases of COVID-19 among crews battling the nearly 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire, officials said Thursday.

In accordance with protocols developed in partnership with the OHA for the 2020 fire season, individuals reporting symptoms and those who worked closely with them are tested and isolated until results are received. Those who test positive are quarantined away from the fire camp.

Due to the number of positive cases, this will be reported to OHA as a workplace outbreak, and updates on the number of positive cases associated with this outbreak will be included in OHA’s COVID-19 weekly report, which is issued every Wednesday.

"Protecting the health and safety of firefighting personnel and those in the local community is the highest priority," officials said.

This fire season has been slightly different, due to the broad availability of vaccines and the prioritization of structural and wildland firefighting resources for vaccination in the spring. However, many of last year’s COVID-19 exposure mitigation measures are still in use at fire camps statewide. Measures currently in place at the incident camps include:

  • Each team has a designated Health Liaison with a primary focus of providing for the mitigation of viral spread through the implementation of best practices. They also work with state and local authorities to manage suspected cases and provide for the efficient testing and contact tracing of fire resources. 
  • Ensuring the safety of incident responders and the public by implementing a thorough risk management process, to include incident operations planning that minimizes the impacts and spread of COVID-19. 
  • Providing wellness services such as hand-wash stations, ample sanitation and cleaning supplies, cleaning services to regularly disinfect frequent use surfaces. 
  • Food services have been designed to minimize contact between resources and support services. 
  • The camp has also been laid out to provide ample spacing for fire crews ,in accordance with social distancing guidelines and to minimize direct interactions between crews. 

Fire managers remain committed to safe and effective firefighting operations. Teams will continue to partner with OHA and county public health officials to identify any opportunities to strengthen existing mitigation measures. Incident management personnel expect and hope for a full recovery of the firefighting resources.

Earlier story:

BLY, Ore. (AP) — Lower winds and better weather helped crews using bulldozers and helicopters battling the nation’s largest wildfire in southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, while a Northern California wildfire crossed into Nevada, prompting new evacuations as blazes burn across the West.

The Bootleg Fire grew to nearly 400,000 acres, or 624 square miles — over half the size of Rhode Island. However, authorities said higher humidity Wednesday and overnight and better conditions allowed crews to improve fire lines. The fire also was approaching an area burned by a previous fire on its active southeastern flank, raising hopes that lack of fuel could reduce its spread and the forecast was for favorable firefighting weather again on Thursday.

“Fire crews and support personnel have made significant progress in containing this fire in the last few days,” Joe Prummer, Incident Commander trainee of Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 2, said in a statement. “However, we still have a long road ahead of us to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities.”

The Oregon fire, which was sparked by lightning, has ravaged the sparsely populated southern part of the state and had been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by strong winds and critically dry weather. The blaze, which is being fought by more than 2,200 people, is now more than one-third contained.

At least 2,000 homes were ordered evacuated at some point during the fire and an additional 5,000 were threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have burned, but no one is known to have died.

Read more at:

Bootleg Fire Daily Update July 22

 Location: 28 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, OR   

 Size: 399,359 acres 

Personnel: 2,359                   Containment: 38% 

(Klamath Falls, OR) – Higher humidity and reduced wind speeds yesterday and overnight allowed firefighters to construct and improve firelines. Today’s forecast will be favorable to continue those efforts in securing the existing fireline. A steady warming and drying trend will begin today and continue into the weekend which can affect fire activity in the upcoming days. 

“Fire crews and support personnel have made significant progress in containing this fire in the last few days.”said Joe Prummer, Incident Commander trainee of Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 2. “However, we still have a long road ahead of us to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities.” 

The Oregon State Fire Marshall have transitioned to working with Zone 2 on the north and northeast sections of the fire. The fireline to Long Creek was improved with dozers and helicopter drops. Firefighters scouted the area from Long Creek to Coyote Creek to develop a plan to connect the fireline to the already completed line near The Nature Conservancy compound. Fire activity picked up in the Sycan Marsh but was quickly contained by dozers. Crews and equipment are going direct along the eastern fireline while also working to improve contingency lines between the fire and the communities near Summer Lake as well as provide structure protection for those homes. There was some slight growth to the northeast, however dozer crews were able to stop that progression and crews will work to hold that today. 

In many areas of the fire, firefighters are working on patrolling and mopping areas along the line. This step is necessary to ensure that all heat that could threaten the security of the fire line has been extinguished. Resources continue to be shifted around the fire perimeter to meet resource needs across the fire area. As the need for night operations on the southern zone decreases, those resources will be moved to day shift or sent home for rest as they time out. 

An additional responsibility of the firefighters on the Bootleg Fire is to provide initial attack response in the area adjacent to the fire. Any new starts have the potential to rapidly grow, given the extremely dry fuel conditions. Fire managers have identified resources that would respond immediately in the event that a new fire should start.  

Evacuations:  Klamath and Lake counties have altered the evacuation zones; please make sure to check the new areas on the interactive map of evacuation levels in Lake and Klamath counties at  

Red Cross Evacuation Shelters:  Open 24/7: Thrive Church - 235 South Laguna St. Klamath Falls, Oregon for information or assistance: 1-800-Red-Cross, FB @RedCrossCascades, (    

Closures:  The Fremont-Winema National Forest is closed to the public in the fire area. Map and full order available at     

Smoke: Afternoon smoke impacts will continue to be high in areas north, northeast, and east of the fire, especially in the vicinity of Silver Lake, Summer Lake, and Paisley. Continuing SW winds will push smoke from the Bootleg Fire away from Lakeview, Klamath Falls and Sprague River Valley, but may bring some smoke from the Dixie Fire into the area. See:     

Fire Information Public Phone: 541-482-1331  Fire Information Media Phone: 971-727-7255  

InciWeb:   Facebook:   

Twitter:   Hashtags: #BootlegFire #FireYear2021  

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

The Associated Press

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