It’s almost like something out of a science fiction movie.
I’m talking about the Bootleg Fire. The largest wildfire in the U.S. was not only burning out of control. It was so big, it created its own weather system.
As of this writing, the fire in southern Oregon had scorched 410,731 acres. And was only 53 percent contained three weeks after it started.
In addition to warning residents about the fire, state officials issued weather warnings. Weather being caused by the fire.
Crossing the Line
One of the biggest problems with the Bootleg Fire was how difficult it was to contain.
Jim Hampton is a fire behavior analyst. Here’s what he told CNN.
“This fire is resistant to stopping at dozer lines,” he said. A dozer line is a fire line constructed by the front blade of a dozer. Such as a bulldozer.
“With the critically dry weather and fuels we are experiencing, firefighters are having to constantly reevaluate their control lines and look for contingency options.”
Fire Spawns Tornado and Lightning
The fire’s extreme behavior actually spawned a tornado in late July. The tornado was confirmed by the Medford National Weather Service Forecast Office.
Marcus Kauffman is a spokesperson for the Oregon Forestry Department. Here’s what he told the New York Times. “The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather.
“Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”
The Bootleg Fire has created what’s called a pyrocumulus cloud. This fire cloud extended 30,000 feet into the atmosphere. There it produced lightning with the potential for dangerous storms. As well as wind that aided the fire’s spread.
Red Flag Warning Issued
Weather conditions existing prior to the July 6 start of the fire are also to blame. The drier the landscape and the higher the temperatures, the more likely a small fire will become large.
The National Interagency Fire Center issued a Red Flag Warning as the Bootleg Fire grew. It destroyed 400 buildings, including 161 residences. Plus 342 vehicles.
The warning is issued when there is “severe fire weather like strong sustained winds, gusts and low humidity. Combined with a high fire danger rating.”
More than 2,000 people were under some form of evacuation orders as the Bootleg Fire spread. The fire was said to be the third largest in Oregon since 1900.
More Than 1 Million Acres Burning
The Bootleg Fire was the largest fire in America as of this writing. But it was hardly the only one.
Firefighting crews were battling over 80 large wildfires throughout the country. More than 22,000 firefighters and support personnel were involved.
Active fires have burned nearly 1.5 million acres in the country. Most are in Western states where drought conditions make containment challenging.
Idaho had the highest number of large fires (23). Oregon had the most acres burned at 541,336 from its seven large fires.
State of Emergency Declared
One of the other devastating fires was the Tamarack Fire on the California-Nevada border. It scorched 66,744 acres and destroyed at least 10 structures.
A FEMA representative said this. “The fire also threatened a water treatment plant, power distribution lines and substations, cellular communications towers, and US Highway 395.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for four northern counties. Two of the fires – the Dixie and the Fly – merged in the Lassen and Plumas national forests.
That combination resulted in the 15th largest fire in state history. And prompted evacuation orders for 7,800 residents. Declaring a state of emergency allows state officials to access more federal funds and resources.
‘Leave the Area Immediately’
An ominous warning was issued in an emergency alert by the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.
“You should leave the area immediately. If you remain, emergency personnel may not be able to help you.”
In addition to closing roads and destroying homes, land and other property, these large fires cause serious air quality issues.
One northern California resident said this. “The smoke is acid. It burns your lungs. It’s just the oxygen level has dropped. It’s probably only about 85 percent.”
Firefighters Face Challenges
As fires rage out of control, firefighters’ lives are at stake. While residents evacuate, they have to stay and try not to get trapped by unpredictable flames.
In many parts of the West, the terrain is steep. That makes the task more difficult. Sometimes fires overtake roads that firefighters need to battle the blazes.
Dennis Burns is another fire behavior analyst. Here’s what he said.
“Steep slopes, a lot of rolling materials, a lot of dead trees coming down, so I can’t overemphasize the danger that these firefighters are facing in trying to keep this up.”
Power Outages Looming – Be Prepared
As with many other disasters, the Bootleg Fire and other wildfires resulted in countless downed power lines and power outages.
Some officials suggested that the Bootleg Fire could affect high-tension power lines running from the Oregon-Washington border all the way to Southern California.
The lines are owned by four different companies including Pacific Gas & Electric. With the mid-summer heat, the last thing residents need is another power outage.
It’s up to each of us to make sure we have backup power to deal with the many causes of power outages. Especially a solar-powered one.
My recommendation is the Patriot Power Generator 1800.
You can use it to run kitchen appliances. Charge your personal or medical devices. Or light up a room with an LED light string… for weeks at a time.
There is no worry about running it inside your house because it does not require diesel or produce fumes like a gas generator. It’s perfectly safe to use indoors.
And it recharges using only the power of the sun, so you don’t have to worry about handling harmful gas, or the dangers of carbon monoxide.