Bootleg Fire crews prepare for 'rowdy fire day' as storms return

Photo by Jonathon Pearson / Bootleg Fire Info

Fire crews have been finishing and reinforcing their lines, but the Bootleg Fire still has plenty of potential to get out of control in the heat and erratic winds.

Posted: Jul 30, 2021 11:15 AM
Updated: Jul 30, 2021 11:40 AM

SILVER LAKE, Ore. — Fire crews have managed to impede growth of the Bootleg Fire over the past several days, but officials continue to warn that the fight is far from over as they watch for potential extreme behavior into the weekend.

As of Friday, the Bootleg Fire remained at an estimated 413,545 acres with containment at 53 percent. About 160 miles of the 300-mile perimeter is still considered uncontained.

Officials said that they saw elevated fire activity over Thursday, with more expected Friday. Most of the flare-ups represented areas on the interior of the fire continuing to burn, but concerns remain that the return of thunderstorms will bring winds capable of carrying embers over fire lines.

"When fuels, weather, and topography align, there is high potential for aggressive fire spread," officials said.

On the northwest corner of the fire, crews spent Thursday completing line to join sections north of Round Butte, and work continues to improve this area with hose lays, mop-up, and patrols.

Crews have contained the previous spot fires, but officials said that concerns remain for winds to reopen the fire line. Most of the spotting has been on the northeast edge of the fire toward Winter Rim, but officials warned that any active section of the fire could throw embers, plus the threat of lightning creating new starts.

Deputy Incident Commander Tom Kurth reminded crews that it could be a “rowdy fire day with the potential for new starts, line breaks, and new fire behavior,” encouraging them to stay safe and maintain situational awareness.

Firefighting aircraft have focused water drops on the active northwest corner of the fire and along the"dirty edge" of the fire's eastern flank — working to cool the area so that firefighters can make more progress along the fire line. Aircraft can slow down the fire's spread and buy time for crews to get in the area.

Brian Deck, Air Ops Branch, said initial air attack “is like preventative medical care; it is easier to prevent fires from spreading than treat large fires.”

“We don’t put fires out without boots on the ground,” said Sam Martin, who conducts air operations for the USDA Forest Service.

Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms moved through the region on Thursday, and more are possible throughout Friday. Due to the risk of lightning, a Red Flag Warning is in effect. Winds are expected to pick up, with the potential for strong gusts and erratic behavior.

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