July 24, 2021

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The Bootleg Fire Has Consumed More Than 360,000 Acres – The New York Times

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Dozens of large wildfires have spread across 13 states, but few are as large and unpredictable as the Bootleg Fire, which has been burning for two weeks in southwestern Oregon.

The fire has consumed more than 364,000 acres, or about 570 square miles, fire officials said in their latest update. It is 30 percent contained.

No deaths or injuries have been reported in relation to the fire, but more than 75 homes and other structures have burned.

“We’ve had to fight for pretty much every foot of this, but we’re getting there,” John Flannigan, an operations section chief, said at a news conference on Monday.

Describing its intensity, Mr. Flannigan said a portion of the fire had roared across an area of wild land “like a hurricane,” adding that it had ripped trees out of the ground. “Pretty impressive fire behavior,” he said.

Firefighters have used a variety of methods to contain the blaze, including a compressed air foam system, which involves a fluffy white foam that is “mopped” onto the ground. The foam separates the space between water molecules so that moisture can quickly penetrate wood or soil. Other methods involve the use of a piece of equipment called a feller buncher, which is often used in logging but can also be used to remove trees along the edge of a fire.

Officials reported on Monday that a firefighter who had become separated from his team the day before while fighting the fire was found alive and well.

After an hourslong search involving a helicopter, the crew member was spotted on Sunday evening and was transported to a hospital, according to KATU, a local television station.

“When we found him, he was up walking,” Mr. Flannigan said.

The Bootleg Fire, spurred by months of drought and a relentless heat wave, is the largest wildfire so far this year in the United States.

“The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather,” said Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department. “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 been burning for two weeks, and for most of that time it has exhibited one or more forms of extreme fire behavior, leading to rapid changes in winds and other conditions that have caused flames to spread rapidly in the forest canopy, ignited whole stands of trees at once, and blown embers long distances, igniting spot fires elsewhere.

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