BEATTY, Ore. — Favorable weather conditions on Sunday allowed fire crews to more directly combat the massive Bootleg Fire burning north of Beatty in Klamath County after high winds on Saturday pushed the fire to explode in size. Regardless, the fire is so large at roughly 150,812 acres that management of the area has been split into two zones, with no reported containment.
The Bootleg Fire's explosion of activity on Saturday afternoon prompted fire crews to fall back from direct attack efforts due to the speed and intensity of the fire. On Sunday, a blanket of smoke over the fire area helped to moderate fire activity, allowing firefighters to get in closer and resume work on building lines.
"After three days of explosive growth, a smoke inversion moderated fire activity and allowed fire crews to construct and improve fire control lines yesterday," the incident managers said in an update Monday afternoon.
Instead of doubling in size as it did for several days in a row, the fire grew just 5,000 acres over the previous day's report.
The Oregon Department of Forestry's Incident Management Team 1 took control of the fire's southern zone on Monday. Pacific Northwest Team 10 will remain in command of the northern zone, while a team from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office will continue to focus on protecting homes and structures, with almost 2,000 considered threatened.
Fire officials said that more crews in both zones will be working a night shift to take advantage of moderated fire activity, building or strengthening lines and attempting to protect threatened structures on the south and eastern flanks of the fire.
NewsWatch 12 learned from fire officials on Monday that at least seven homes and 43 other structures have been destroyed by the Bootleg Fire thus far, as crews begin initial damage assessments. More than 100 people spent the night at the Red Cross shelter in the Klamath County Fairgrounds, and one man confirmed that his home was one of those destroyed by the fire.
FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grant
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Monday that it has authorized the use of federal funds for firefighting efforts on the Bootleg Fire in Klamath County. The fire covered 153,535 at last estimate, and has prompted widespread evacuations as it grows unhindered.
With the scale of firefighting efforts expanding by the day, Oregon made a request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant due to the Bootleg Fire's threat to the communities of Sprague River, Bly and Beatty.
"The fire also threatened roads, bridges, utilities, infrastructure, recreation and businesses in the area," FEMA said in a statement. "Oregon continues to experience extreme heat conditions and has burn bans and red flag warnings in place."
FEMA's acting administrator for the region, Vincent Maykovich, approved the grant request on Saturday. It is the second grant for Oregon wildfires in 2021, though the Bootleg Fire is by far the largest in Oregon so far this year.
FMAGs come from the President's Disaster Relief Fund and are used to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster, the federal agency said. They can be used to pay for the expenses of field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials, and supplies.
With the authorization, FEMA funding will be available to pay for 75 percent of Oregon's eligible firefighting costs. The funds do not go toward home or business owners and don't cover infrastructure damage caused by the fire.
Another $584,083 will be available to Oregon for mitigation of wildfire and related hazards, bankrolling efforts to build defensible space, ignition-resistant construction, and reduction of hazardous fuels.
Bootleg Fire evacuations
An interactive map of current evacuation zones can be viewed here.
Level 3 (GO NOW) evacuation order
- Klamath County, north of the town of Beatty. East side of Godowa Springs Rd north of the OC and E Trail to the Klamath County Line need to leave immediately.
- Klamath County, near the town of Sprague River. Upper tableland area north of Oregon Pines Rd need to leave immediately.
Level 2 (GET SET) evacuation warning
- Klamath County, near the town of Sprague River. Klamath Forrest Estates/Moccasin Hills Area need to be prepared to leave.
- Klamath County, West side of Godowa Springs Rd, south of Oregon Pines Rd and Tableland Rd. to the river need to be prepared to leave.
Level 1 (BE READY) evacuation notice
- Klamath County, Between Beatty and Bly 3 miles south of Highway 140 from Yellow Jacket Springs to Fishhole Creek need to be ready in case.
- Klamath County, the area from the intersection of Sprague River Rd and Forbes Rd extending east to Godowa Springs and Yellow Jacket Springs and south of the Sprague River 4 miles need to be ready in case.
The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office started to issue citations and says it will make arrests if necessary to keep people out of the Level 3 evacuation areas.