The massive Bootleg wildfire in southeastern Oregon is spreading at a rate of 1,000 acres every hour with smoke and heat from the massive blaze so intense that giant ‘fire clouds’ are being created over the blaze.
The inferno grew Friday to about 75 square miles larger than the size of New York City and was raging through a part of the U.S. West that is enduring a historic drought.
The fire is moving at an astonishing rate, equivalent to an entire football field every 5 seconds covering an area larger than Manhattan’s Central Park every 60 minutes.
The clouds feature dangerous columns of smoke and ash that can reach up to 6 miles into the sky and are visible from more than 100 miles away.
Authorities have put these clouds at the top of the list of the extreme fire behavior they are seeing on the Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the U.S.
The fire was so dangerous on Friday that authorities pulled out crews. Meteorologists this week also spotted a bigger, more extreme form of fire clouds – ones that can create their own weather, including ‘fire tornadoes.’
The Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the U.S., has torched more than 377 square miles with crews having little control of it. It has stymied firefighters for nearly a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior.
Firefighters are seen at the Bootleg Fire, some 28 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, Oregon
In this photo taken with a drone provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, is seen over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon
Firefighters scrambled Friday to control a raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that’s spreading miles a day in windy conditions, one of numerous wildfires across the U.S. West that are straining resources
Bootleg Fire rises behind the town of Bonanza, Oregon. The Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the U.S., has torched more than 377 square miles
The Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the U.S., has torched more than 241,496 acres as of Friday evening
Oregon State Fire Marshal tweeted a photo from the scene of the massive Bootleg Fire
Firefighters are seen discussing their plan as they wait in position at the Bootleg fire
Volunteer Firefighter Andy Louden, left, is seen looking at the task ahead while studying a map of the area
Early on, the fire was doubling in size almost daily. An initial review Friday showed the Bootleg Fire destroyed 67 homes and 117 outbuildings overnight in one county. Authorities were still counting the losses in a second county where the flames are surging up to 4 miles a day amid dry and blustery conditions.
The blaze has forced 2,000 people to evacuate and is threatening 5,000 buildings that include homes and smaller structures in a rural area just north of the California border, fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said. Active flames are surging along 200 miles of the fire’s perimeter, she said, and it’s expected to merge with a smaller, but equally explosive fire by nightfall.
‘We´re likely going to continue to see fire growth over miles and miles of active fire line,’ Krake said. ‘We are continuing to add thousands of acres a day, and it has the potential each day, looking forward into the weekend, to continue those 3- to 4-mile runs.’
Seventy-one active large fires and complexes of multiple fires have burned nearly 1,553 square miles in the U.S., mostly in Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have swept the region, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the American West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The blaze was most active on its northeastern flank, pushed by winds from the south toward the rural communities of Summer Lake and Spring Lake. Paisley, to the east of the fire, was also at risk. All the towns are in Lake County, a remote area of lakes and wildlife refuges with a total population of about 8,000.
Firefighting teams from California have sent eight strike teams/task forces, including 40 engines and firefighting crews, to help with the wildfire response in Southern Oregon
A firefighter starts his shift as the Bootleg Fire continues to expand at an astonishing rate in Bly, Oregon
Flames and smoke rise from the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon, the largest fire in the U.S.
Firefighter Jacob Walsh examines burned trees on the North East side of the Bootleg Fire earlier this week
The Bootleg Fire is one of at least a dozen major fires burning in Washington state, Oregon and California as a siege of wildfires takes hold across the drought-stricken West. There were 70 active large fires and complexes of multiple fires that have burned nearly 1,659 square miles in the U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said.
In the Pacific Northwest, firefighters say they are facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall than early July.
Extreme fire behavior, including the formation of more fire clouds, was expected to worsen into the weekend.
The Pyrocumulus clouds – literally translated as ‘fire clouds’ – look like giant, dirty-colored thunderheads that sit atop a massive column of smoke coming up from a wildfire. Often the top of the smoke column flattens out to take the shape of an anvil.
In Oregon, fire authorities say the clouds are forming between 3 and 5pm each day as the sun penetrates the smoke layer and heats the ground below, creating an updraft of hot air. On this fire, crews are seeing the biggest and most dangerous clouds over a section of wilderness that’s made up mostly of dead trees, which burn instantly and with a lot of heat.
For four days in a row, the Bootleg Fire has generated multiple fire clouds that rise nearly 6 miles into the atmosphere and are ‘easily visible from 100 to 120 air miles away’, authorities said on Friday.
An aircraft makes its way through the plumes of smoke caused by the Bootleg Fire on Thursday
Oregon National Guardsmen regroup at the Bootleg Fire Command Center on Wednesday in Chiloquin, Oregon
Firefighters are seen as Bootleg Fire rages across central Oregon state, in Klamath County, Oregon, seen earlier in the week
The Bootleg Fire rages across central Oregon state, in Klamath County, Oregon
Dee McCarley hugs her cat Bunny, whom she took with her while evacuating from the Bootleg Fire, while at a Red Cross center in Klamath Falls, Oregon
When air over the fire becomes super-heated, it rises in a large column. As the air with more moisture rises, it rushes up the smoke column into the atmosphere, and the moisture condenses into droplets. That’s what creates the ‘fire clouds’ that look much like the thunderheads seen before a big thunderstorm.
These clouds, however, hold more than just water. Ash and particles from the fire also get swept into them, giving them a dark gray, ominous look.
When a pyrocumulus cloud forms over a fire, meteorologists begin to watch carefully for its big brother, the pyrocumulonimbus cloud.
NASA has called the latter the ‘fire-breathing dragon of clouds’ because they are so hot and big that they create their own weather.
In a worst-case scenario, fire crews on the ground could see one of the monster clouds spawn a ‘fire tornado,’ generate its own dry lightning and hail – but no rain – and create dangerous hot winds below. They can also send particulate matter from the smoke column up to 10 miles above Earth’s surface.
The Bootleg Fire continues to burn actively on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, approximately 11 miles northeast of the town of Sprague Rive
The sun sets amid smoke as the Bootleg Fire expands to over 240,000 acres, in Bly, Oregon
A firefighting aircraft drops flame-retarding chemicals on the Bootleg Fire as it expands to over 240,000 acres, in Bly, Oregon
Firefighters Garret Suza, right, and Cameron Taylor, with the Chiloquin Forest Service, search for hot spots on the North East side of the Bootleg Fire
Firefighters say they are facing conditions more typical of late summer or fall than early July
Smoke billows over the hills to the north of a Red Cross disaster shelter as the Bootleg Fire expands to over 240,000 acres
Firefighters assemble as the Bootleg Fire rages across central Oregon state, in Klamath County
So far, most of the clouds on the Bootleg Fire have been the less-intense fire clouds, but the National Weather Service on Wednesday spotted a pyrocumulonimbus cloud forming on what it called ‘terrifying’ satellite imagery.
‘Please send positive thoughts and well wishes to the firefighters. … It’s a tough time for them right now,’ the weather service said in a tweet.
Both types of fire clouds pose serious risks for firefighters.
Multiple pyrocumulus clouds have been spotted for four consecutive days, and one of them on the southern flank of the fire partially collapsed Thursday, causing dangerous winds and embers to fall on crews.
That prompted the emergency evacuation of all firefighters and dirt-moving equipment from that part of the fire line. Authorities say there have been no reported injuries.
‘We’re expecting those exact same conditions to develop today and even worsen into the weekend,’ fire spokeswoman Holly Krake said Friday.
These types of fire-induced clouds are becoming more common as climate change lengthens and intensifies the wildfire season across the U.S. West and in other places, including Australia.
Firefighter Garrett Suza, with the Chiloquin Forest Service, mops up a hot spot on the North East side of the Bootleg Fire
Firefighter Nahum Reyes sleeps under a firetruck after his shift as the Bootleg Fire expands to over 240,000 acres
A man enters an air-conditioned tent that allows nightshift firefighters to sleep in comfort during the mid-day heat, as the Bootleg Fire expands to over 240,000 acres, in Bly, Oregon
The Bootleg Fire burns at night near Highway 34 in southern Oregon. Firefighters scrambled Friday to control the raging inferno in southeastern Oregon that’s quickly spreading in windy conditions
The Bootleg fire, pictured, is one of 10 wildfires currently burning in Oregon, which was recently baked in the historic heatwave that swept across the west
Experts with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said in a news release Friday that they are seeing a ‘record number’ of these fire-induced clouds in North America this summer, including in Oregon, Montana and British Columbia.
During what will be the fourth heat wave in the span of five weeks, at least 16 million people will swelter in triple-digit temperatures, with the most intense heat in the central and northern Rockies.
The heat wave, expected to develop over this weekend and peak around Monday, will hit areas where multiple wildfires have flared up, worrying firefighters who are working round the clock to extinguish fast spreading flames.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Wall Street Journal that the way heat waves are coming one after another with no time in between this year is unprecedented and has exacerbated drought and fire conditions.
‘There really is no historical precedent for this magnitude of recurrent, record-breaking heat in the same part of the western U.S.,’ Swain said. ‘We’ve known for a long time this is where things were headed because climate change is dramatically increasing the likelihood of unprecedented, extreme heat events like we’re seeing right now.’
The 10-day outlook calls for temperatures in most of the western United States to remain above average
Hight temperatures in the western United States are expected to rise over the weekend during another heatwave
Satellite image shows the nation’s largest burning wildfire, The Bootleg Fire, burning out of control in Oregon
Spokane, Washington, is expected to hit 100 degrees Sunday, while Eureka, Montana could hit 101 degrees on Monday.
In eastern Montana, an excessive heat watch is in effect from Saturday afternoon through Wednesday, when temperatures can reach 106 degrees with nighttime lows struggling to fall below 70.
Heat warnings also cover much of south central Canada in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The current heat wave could bring temperatures that meet or exceed daily records in parts of Montana and Idaho over the weekend and into early next week, according to Julie Malingowski, an emergency response meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
In late June, a historic heat wave crippled the Pacific Northwest and more than 230 people died in four days in Canada; 220,000 people faced blackouts in Oregon and Washington when temperatures surpassed a record 121 degrees.
Temperatures soared due to a high-pressure ‘heat dome’ that grew over the upper northwestern United States and Canada, the NWS said, and punished California and U.S. Southwestern states as well. The ‘heat dome’ is caused by static high-pressure hot air which traps heat in one location.
At the time, 12 million people were under an excessive heat warning in parts of Oregon, Washington, the Northern Great Basin and Northern Idaho, as well as portions of northwest Nevada and northern California.
Temperatures in the western United States are expected to surpass 100 degrees during an unprecedented heatwave this weekend
Satellite images during a historic heatwave set to bring record-breaking temperatures to the western U.S.
The sweltering temperatures are being caused by a heat dome of static high-pressure hot air which traps the heat in one location