Oregon Bootleg Fire: Evacuations as largest US fire burns 300,000 acres
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In the US state of Oregon, the nation’s largest active wildfire has burned through more than 300,000 acres, prompting thousands of evacuations.
The Bootleg Fire, already among the biggest in the state’s recent history, is one of more than 80 major blazes raging across 11 western states.
Fed by hot temperatures and intense winds, the Bootleg has been burning since 6 July.
In neighbouring Canada, heat waves have also fuelled hundreds of fires.
Wildfires have torn through more than 1.1m acres in the US – mainly in western states – according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires.
The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.
Experts have told the BBC that due to a multi-year drought, the potential for a historic 2021 North American wildfire season is “sky-high”.
The so-called Bootleg Fire, named for the nearby Bootleg Spring, has demolished southern Oregon’s forests.
The blaze has forced at least 2,000 residents from mostly rural areas to abandon their homes. At least 160 homes and buildings have been destroyed so far.
As of Monday morning, the destructive fire had burned through land nearly the size of Los Angeles.
About a quarter of the blaze is contained, meaning it is surrounded by a barrier to prevent its spread, according to data from InciWeb, which tracks US wildfires. Over 2,100 firefighters are currently battling the fire.
“Weather’s really against us,” Operations Section Chief John Flannigan told US media on Sunday. “It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be dry and air’s going to be unstable which helps the heat raise faster.”
This week’s forecast is unlikely to help efforts to control the fire. Temperatures are expected to be between 10 and 15 degrees above normal and a drought is ongoing.
In Canada, more than 150 new fires started burning throughout the country during this past weekend alone, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
More than 4,000 blazes have been recorded by the non-profit in 2021 so far – approaching double last year’s total.