The fire has scorched more than 606 square miles – an area larger than Los Angeles and about half the size of Rhode Island. It grew to more than 388,350 acres overnight from Monday to Tuesday and is 30% contained, according to data from the InciWeb interagency website.
It’s one of at least eight large fires burning in Oregon and one of at least 83 burning across 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The climate crisis has made deadlier and more destructive wildfires the new normal.
“There’s absolutely no question that climate change is playing out before our eyes,” Gov. Kate Brown said at a news conference. “We saw the heat dome event a few weeks ago. We unfortunately lost a lot of Oregonians through that event. In February we saw devastating ice storms. Over a half a million people lost power last fall, as you are well aware. We had unprecedented wildfires.”
Much of the West remains under the threat of fire conditions Tuesday, with more than 3.5 million people under red flag warnings, according to a tweet from the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center. A red flag warning means “critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly,” the prediction center said.
Excessive heat warnings will continue for more than 337,000 people, and nearly 650,000 more are under a heat advisory.
Temperatures in the region will remain up to 10 degrees above normal over the next 48 hours, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. There’s also a chance of dry storms, which lack the precipitation that is desperately needed to help calm the flames.
While some sporadic rain is possible across the Intermountain West, “this is not really going to do much in the way of fighting any of the wildfires out West,” Guy said.
“Some rain may fall from afternoon storms, but it will not be enough to stop or put out the fires that are ongoing,” he said.
The Bootleg Fire is changing the weather
Satellite images posted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have shown smoke from the fires in western Canada and the Intermountain West billowing over the region.
In Oregon, fire officials noted the Bootleg Fire is showing “aggressive surface spread with pyrocumulus development.”
Pyrocumulus clouds form when extreme heat from the flames of a wildfire force the air to rapidly rise, condensing and cooling any moisture on smoke particles produced by the fire. These clouds essentially become their own thunderstorms and can contain lightning and st