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Firefighter who went missing on the Bootleg Fire found by search teams

Fire officials reported that a firefighter working in Lake County became separated from his crew while working to contain spot fires in the area.

Posted: Jul 19, 2021 9:33 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2021 6:09 PM

LAKEVIEW, Ore. — Firefighters and law enforcement officers started a search mission on Sunday after learning that a firefighter had gone missing while working near the Bootleg Fire.

According to the incident management team, a fire crew was working to contain spot fires in the Happy Camp area of the Fremont National Forest when one of the firefighters got separated from the rest of the crew. A report about the missing man went out at 6:30 p.m.

The Zone 1 Incident Management Team quickly started search efforts, bringing in aircraft and other resources to help. The crew of a helicopter spotted the firefighter around 8:20 p.m., but could not find a place to land.

Another fire crew joined the search, in addition to personnel from the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Fire officials said that a Rapid Extraction Module, "a highly skilled and specially equipped team used to provide emergency medical services and extraction to firefighters on the line," also deployed to help in getting the firefighter out.

Officials said that the firefighter was in good spirits when they reached him, and he was able to hike to the road where an ambulance was waiting. Medical staff took him to Lakeview Hospital for evaluation.

Sunday marked another day of extreme fire behavior on the Bootleg Fire, forcing fire crews to fall back to safety zones as it surged forward on the north and southeast flanks. By Monday morning, the fire was estimated at 303,791 acres with containment at 25 percent.

“We are running firefighting operations through the day and all through the night,” said Joe Hessel, Incident Commander. “This fire is a real challenge, and we are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future.”

Flames crossed the 28 Road, burning more than 2,500 acres in the Elder Creek area east of Gearhart Mountain. Fire crews worked through the night to keep the fire's foothold from growing.

On the north end of the fire, firefighters were driven back as the flames pushed past retardant lines and burned "three to four miles north" near Long Creek. Staff at the Nature Conservancy station in Sycan Marsh were evacuated as firefighters moved to protect the structures there.

One of the few bright spots Sunday was on the Log Fire, burning just to the northeast of the main Bootleg Fire. Officials said that heavy smoke cover shaded the area, keeping down fire intensity and allowing crews to limit its growth toward Summer Lake with dozer lines.

Fire officials warned that thunderstorms could emerge in the area on Monday, adding the risk of lightning to the already windy, dry, and hot conditions. The Bootleg Fire is expected to grow to the north, east, and southeast, with firefighters building contingency fire line in the event that the first lines fail.

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