SILVER LAKE, Ore. — Fire officials say that they did not expect the Bootleg Fire to become active again so quickly after the rains earlier this week, finding that the revived heat and winds quickly counteracted those benefits. As of Thursday morning, the Bootleg Fire was estimated at 413,545 acres and 53 percent containment.
Fire Behavior Specialist Chris Moore commented on how unusual it is to see fire flare ups so quickly after a wetting rain.
“As we move out of normal climatological range, previous experience is less relevant,” said Moore. “The rain that we got will not put the fire out. Spotting will become more of an issue as fuels dry out again.”
Incident Commander Norm McDonald reinforced this caution stating that fire crews need “a recalibration of where we are."
"There isn’t a ‘normal’ anymore. We need to be prepared for anything,” McDonald said.
As the day's heat dried out the fire area on Wednesday and winds picked up, crews saw fire activity increase. Officials said that the northwest corner of the fire remains the most active, with dozers and hand crews working together to close the line around the perimeter. Helicopter support cooled the fire down as crews worked around Round Butte. Now crews are hoping to hold onto the progress they've made.
To the northeast, crews found two more ember-cast spot fires west of Winter Rim on Wednesday. The fires were found about a half mile outside of the fire perimeter, but they were relatively small in size. Helicopters hit them with water as air tankers made retardant drops, but firefighters will still need to secure them.
While the fire is less active to the east than to the north, officials said that the area continues to pose a challenge.
"That edge of the fire is a 'dirty edge,' that is, there isn’t a continuous edge to the fire in this area as the fire leaves pockets of unburned vegetation," officials said. "This ragged edge is more difficult for crews to secure."
The fire has been much more quiet to the south and west, but crews noted flare-ups and smoke plumes coming from the interior of the fire on Wednesday. Officials noted that "this is a good thing," and can help decrease the chances that embers will be floated out of the fire in the future.
Firefighters are preparing for increasing challenges in the days ahead, as temperatures and winds are both expected to rise.