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Lake County evacuations grow as Bootleg Fire spreads east

Firefighters reported more extreme fire behavior throughout Wednesday, with the fire torching trees, making wind-driven runs, and sparking spot fires ahead of the main fire.

Posted: Jul 15, 2021 9:27 AM
Updated: Jul 15, 2021 7:05 PM

BEATTY, Ore. —

UPDATE: With critical fire weather again creating extreme activity on the Bootleg Fire, authorities have expanded evacuation zones on the Lake County side of the fire, particularly on the northern flank of the fire near Summer Lake. Zones are also increasing near the Gearhart Wilderness and the town of Paisley.

According to the latest from fire officials, the Bootleg Fire has destroyed 11 homes and 35 other buildings based on initial damage assessments. Another three homes and one outbuilding structure have been damaged.

These new zones are effective immediately:

Level 3 (Go Now)

  • County line on Hwy 140 east to Quartz Mt, following the FS RD 3660 to Corral Crk, north to FS Rd 34, to Deadhorse and Campbell Lakes, Bald Butte to the north of Winter Rim, to Picture Rock Pass, east over Hager Mt, county line at Coffee Pot Spring.

Level 2 (Get Set)

  • From county line near Mitchell Monument south to Hwy 140, running along Hwy 140 east to Quartz Mountain and northeast to Dairy Creek CG, then north to Government Harvey Junction, north on FS 29 Rd to Hwy 31 again encompassing the west shore of Summer Lake and stopping 2 miles short of ODFW headquarters on Hwy 31, then west across Thompson Reservoir to the County line.

Level 1 (Be Ready)

  • West of Hwy 140.

Evacuation shelters are located at the following locations: Klamath County Fairgrounds, La Pine Middle School, and a shelter will be available later tonight at the Daly Middle School Auditorium, 220 South H Street.

With evacuations changing rapidly over the day, fire officials recommend that area residents consult the interactive evacuation map here.


INITIAL REPORT: The Bootleg Fire made a dramatic show of its inexorable push to the east on Wednesday as fire crews struggled to slow its advance, with pyrocumulus clouds towering over the eastern side of the fire area. The fire was estimated at 227,234 acres with 7 percent containment as of Thursday morning.

Firefighters reported more extreme fire behavior throughout Wednesday, with the fire torching trees, making wind-driven runs, and sparking spot fires ahead of the main fire. Officials said that this included growth into the Gearhart Wilderness and north toward Lake Henry.

Meanwhile, another fire on the Bootleg's northeastern flank continued to grow. The Log Fire, located about 8 miles southwest of Summer Lake, also spread to the east amid steady winds. It was estimated at 4,830 acres on Thursday morning.

As Red Flag conditions settled over the fire area throughout Wednesday evening, fire officials reported a pyrocumulonimbus cloud with "broad rotation" amid a smoke column along the eastern fire line. The dry conditions and erratic winds were expected to cause extreme behavior into the night.

“This fire is going to continue to grow – the extremely dry vegetation and weather are not in our favor,” said Joe Hessel, Incident Commander for ODF Team 1 Incident Management Team. “We are going to continue to prepare lines, protect structures, and move resources as we can around the fire’s edge.”

Crews continued their work to secure the Fuego Mountain area, where the fire began last week, as well as areas on the southeastern edge of the fire along 34 Road. Officials said that firefighters are working to hold the fire at the 34 road to prevent Bootleg from moving further to the south and east.

"Heavy beetle killed timber and active fire behavior will present challenges in keeping the fire north and west of this road. Crews will continue to work on strengthening their existing line as well as scout for potential contingency lines. Structure protection groups are in place along the fire to help reduce risk to area homes," the incident management team said.

Evacuation zones continue to spread into north and east into Lake County due to the fire's growth, but Thursday'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.

 Officials from the U.S. Forest Service have 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.

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