Major US wildfire grows, forces more residents to flee

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The spate of conflagrations, marking a heavier-than-normal start of the Western wildfire season, has coincided with record-shattering heat that has baked much of the region in recent weeks and is blamed for hundreds of deaths

Oregon‘s giant Bootleg Fire has triggered over 2,100 evacuations and destroyed 67 homes in nearly two weeks of explosive growth, regularly forcing back firefighters who have only contained one-quarter of its perimeter. Nicolas Bey, 11, hugs his father, Sayyid Bey, near a donated trailer they are using after their home was burned in the Bootleg Fire near Beatty, Oregon, US, July 19, 2021. (Reuters) Stoked by hot, dry winds, the largest of several dozen Western wildfires have roared through more drought-parched brush and timber in southern Oregon , displacing some 2,000 residents after destroying scores of homes, officials said.

An army of nearly 2,200 personnel battling the so-called Bootleg fire, raging in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest 400 km south of Portland, increased their containment lines to 25 percent of its perimeter, up from 22 percent the day before, the Oregon Forestry Department reported.

“We are fighting the fire aggressively, and there are active efforts to build a containment line, both direct and indirect, wherever it is safe to do so,” agency spokesman Marcus Kauffman said.

But the amount of landscape charred since the blaze erupted on July 6 grew another 16,187 hectares (40,000 acres) on Thursday alone to reach an estimated total of almost  138,000 hectares (340,000 acres) – more than half the land mass of Rhode Island, the US Forest Service reported.

Only three other Oregon wildfires over the past century have consumed more acreage, according to state forestry figures.

As of today, there are 9 large fires blazing across Oregon—including the largest fire in the country.

Let me be clear: The climate crisis has made fire season in Oregon more prevalent and dangerous, and we must work together to maximize resources and protect our communities.

Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 19, 2021 Nearly 20,000 firefighters confronting flames

Extreme fire behaviour on Sunday forced some ground crews to fall back to “safety zones” for a ninth straight day and regroup as they “looked for opportunities to re-engage,” incident commander Joe Hessel wrote in his daily report.

“This fire is a real challenge, and we are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future.”

The Bootleg also stood as the biggest, by far, of 80 major active wildfires that have collectively burned nearly 485,622 hectares (1.2 million acres) in 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

More than 19,600 firefighters and support personnel are confronting those flames.

The spate of conflagrations, marking a heavier-than-normal start of the Western wildfire season, has coincided with record-shattering heat that has baked much of the region in recent weeks and is blamed for hundreds of deaths.

Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat that are symptomatic of climate change. 

Hot weather & dry conditions continue to drive an increase in wildfire activity spanning across CA! Compared to this same time last year, there has been more than 900 wildfires & over 165,000 more acres burned. It's now more critical than ever that all Californians are prepared pic.twitter.com/TlvzQNjTFM

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) July 19, 2021 Incendiary weather

Since starting nearly two weeks ago, the Bootleg fire has thrived from a combustible triad of weather conditions – gusty winds, high temperatures and low humidity – that are expected to persist in the days ahead. Forecasts on Monday added a chance of thunderstorms to the mix.

“Thunderstorms often just come with dry lightning and wind and don't necessarily produce any precipitation,” Kauffman said.

At last report, the fire had destroyed 67 homes and was threatening 2,460 more. More than 100 outbuildings and other structures also have been lost.

An estimated 2,100 people were under evacuation orders on Monday and many more were on standby alert to be ready to flee at a moment's notice.

The cause of the Bootleg was under investigation.

In California, PG&E Corp, the state's largest power company, said some of its equipment may have been involved in sparking the Dixie fire last Tuesday in a remote area about 140 km (85 miles) north of Sacramento.

That wildfire has burned over 12,140 hectares (30,000 acres )as more than 1,900 fire-fighting personnel carved containment lines a round 15 percent of its periphery, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Dixie fire has prompted some evacuation orders for Plumas and Butte counties, CalFire reported.

In an incident report to state regulators on Sunday that PG&E described as preliminary, the company said one of its workers last Tuesday found blown fuses on a utility pole and spotted a fire near the base of a tree that was leaning into a conductor. The worker reported the fire, it said.

Thirteen months ago, the company pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a devastating 2018 wildfire touched off by wind-damaged power lines that destroyed much of the nearby town of Paradise.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies