The Oregon Bootleg Fire
, which has destroyed more than 150 structures and displaced thousands of people
, is so large that officials believe it will not be fully extinguished until November.
As of Wednesday morning, the massive blaze in southern Oregon had consumed nearly 400,000 acres, a 625 square-mile swath of land comparable in size to half of Rhode Island
, and was only 32% contained.
The fire is so large that it's spawning pyrocumulous clouds, which are super-heated columns of smoke and ash that can reach up to 6 miles in height and generate their own lightning and strong winds, which can then ignite and spread other fires, creating a destructive cycle.
“Normally, the weather
predicts what the fire will do,” said Oregon Department of Forestry spokesperson Marcus Kauffman on Tuesday, “but in this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”
Fire officials said Wednesday that lightning or some other natural cause likely ignited the massive fire on July 6, which spread aggressively due to a combination of gusty winds and critically dry fuel. An unprecedented heatwave
in late June left 90% of the state in exceptional, extreme, or severe drought
Rob Allen, PNW Incident Management Commander, warned on Tuesday that the fight would be "a marathon
, not a sprint
“We’re in this for as long as it takes to safely contain this monster,” he stated.
According to firefighting official Katy O'Hara, the fire may not be completely extinguished until late October or November, when widespread moisture falls over the area.
According to the Associated Press
, no one has died as of yet.
However, at least 70 homes and 100 outbuildings have been destroyed, with 2,000 homes evacuated and another 5,000 threatened. (In slightly better news, firefighters
confirmed to The Oregonian that a monument commemorating the only U.S. mainland casualties from enemy action during World War II
“There is absolutely no doubt
that climate change
is playing out in front of our eyes,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown
(D) said at a news conference
Tuesday. “We saw the heat dome event a few weeks ago, and we unfortunately lost a lot of Oregonians as a result of that event. In February, we saw devastating ice
storms. Over 500,000 people lost power last fall, as you are well aware. We had unprecedented wildfires
“It is critical that we... address climate change, from reducing our reliance on fossil fuels
to ensuring a rapid transition to clean energy
,” Brown added.
Almost 80 large fires are currently raging across the American West, destroying more than 1.3 million acres of land, a 2,031 square-mile area larger than the state of Delaware. Smoke from those fires even darkened the skies over New York City
— about 2,000 miles away — on Tuesday.