2:32 PM PDT, July 16, 2021
The largest wildfire in the country is raging out of control in southern Oregon, where it has destroyed more than 240,000 acres, an area bigger than New York City and twice the size of Portland, the state’s biggest city.
The blaze began July 6 and erupted into an inferno that has gobbled more than 20 homes and threatens 5,000 structures, fire officials said. Fueled by drought conditions, bone-dry forests and deadly winds, the blaze has turned on a dime and forced firefighters to evacuate some front lines Thursday.
Reinforcements have been sent from fire departments across the nation as far away as New York. Crews are arriving from Arizona, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alaska, Oklahoma, Georgia and Michigan. The Bootleg Fire already surpasses any state wildfire from 2020.
Early on, the fire doubled in size almost daily, officials said.
Residents reported fleeing as sudden wind shifts sent flames flying toward their homes and trees exploded as they ran.
The blaze has generated gigantic smoke columns that are visible for miles and from jetliners, a sign the inferno is so intense it is creating its own weather system, meaning even more capricious winds and fire-generated lightning are possible.
Fire officials estimated the blaze may not be contained until November because of horrific conditions created by record-setting drought and heatwaves in the area, caused by the effects of climate change.