The nation’s largest wildfire is still raging through southern Oregon but crews were scaling back some night operations as hard work and weaker winds helped reduce the spread of flames even as wildfires continued to threaten homes in neighboring California.
The Bootleg Fire, which has destroyed an area half the size of Rhode Island, was 40% surrounded after burning some 70 homes, mainly cabins, fire officials said.
At least 2,000 homes were ordered evacuated at some point during the fire and an additional 5,000 were threatened.
The upper eastern edge of the blaze continued to move toward Summer Lake, jumping fire lines on Thursday and prompting a local evacuation order for some portions of Lake County to be raised to “go now!,” fire officials said.
Winds up to 10 miles per hour could drive the flames through timber but not at the pace seen last week, when the wind-driven blaze grew exponentially, fire information officer Angela Goldman said.
The fire, which was sparked by lightning, had been expanding by up to 4 miles a day, pushed by strong winds and critically dry weather.
There was good news on the lower portion of the 624-square-mile blaze. Crews had locked in containment lines and on the lower southeastern side, crews were able to gain a substantial foothold, allowing them to cut back to nighttime patrols from what had been a “24-7 run-and-gun” fight, fire information officer Sarah Gracey said.
“For us, that’s a pretty big step,” she said. “It’s not that easy to work in a pitch-black forest in the middle of the night.”
Crews will be able to rest and contribute to dayside attacks, she said.
“We have had day after day of red flag warnings (of extreme fire danger) and today we don’t have a red flag warning,” Gracey said Thursday. However, low humidity and high temperatures remained a concern.
That side of the blaze also had burned into an area blackened by a previous fire, creating gaps in the fuel and reducing the spread of flames through grass, shrub and timber, Gracey said.
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