BEATTY, Ore. — For the first time since the Bootleg Fire started northeast of Sprague River more than a week ago, fire officials reported that some areas of the massive fire have been contained.
In an update on Wednesday morning, officials mapped the fire at roughly 212,377 acres, representing growth of more than 10,000 acres from the day prior.
Continued heat, critically dry vegetation, and high winds contributed to another day of active fire behavior. Fire officials said that most of the fire's growth occurred on the east side, in the greater Gearhart Wilderness area. Heavy smoke curtailed firefighting aircraft due to unsafe conditions.
“We’re making steady progress where winds and terrain allow,” said Rob Allen, Incident Commander for PNW2 Incident Management Team. “But for the third day in a row, firefighters had to disengage at times for their safety and weather isn’t going to change for the foreseeable future.”
According to the incident management team, fire crews saw the most progress on the west side of the fire — near where it began on the slopes of Fuego Mountain. Firefighters improved existing dozer and hand lines, and conducted "burnout" operations overnight to build out solid containment lies protecting the Chiloquin and Highway 97 areas.
Officials said that the inversion, which trapped smoke lower to the ground and shielded the area from direct sunlight, helped crews on the south and east to build or improve lines there.
"While the fire did not make expansive ‘runs’ as it did in past days, west winds continued to push fire growth toward the greater Snake and Round Butte areas under Red Flag conditions," fire officials said.
Evacuations continued to spread into Lake County due to the fire's growth to the north and east, but Wednesday's update did not highlight the specific areas that were added over the last 24 hours. Officials said that an interactive map of evacuations is the best way to keep apprised of them due to the rapidly changing nature of the fire.
The fire's lurch toward Lake County caused law enforcement to issue new evacuations by Tuesday morning, stretching to the north, east, and southeast from Klamath County into Lake. Officials from the U.S. Forest Service also expanded closures in the Fremont-Winema National Forest to ensure that people stay away from threatened recreation areas.
“The Bootleg Fire has moved rapidly through Klamath and Lake counties, with extreme fire behavior driven by hot weather, winds and exceptionally dry fuels since it was discovered last Tuesday,” said Fremont-Winema National Forest Supervisor Barry Imler. “For public and firefighter safety, it is essential that we expand the closure area while firefighters, the Incident Management Team and area fire managers work together to contain and control the fire.”
Incident commanders decided Monday to split the firefight into two zones to the north and south. The Oregon Department of Forestry's Incident Management Team 1 took control of the fire's southern zone. Pacific Northwest Team 10 remains 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.