Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, amplified by a historic draught and weeks of extreme heat, is expected to grow in the coming days as first responders are hampered by storms and strong winds. The season’s largest wildfire is so powerful, that it’s generating “fire clouds” (or pyrocumulonimbus clouds) that can spur their own hurricanes, lighting, and thunder (watch above). The possibility of “fire tornados” also exists.
“The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather,” said Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department. “Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”
As the sun sets across the central and eastern United States this evening, smoky skies fill the horizon due to distant wildfires burning across western Canada and the Intermountain West.🌇 pic.twitter.com/SCGbP9khVK
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) July 19, 2021
The BBC explains: “Nasa calls pyrocumulonimbus “the fire-breathing dragon of clouds,” because they funnel smoke like a chimney into the Earth’s atmosphere, while hurling thunderbolts, wind and rain.”
The Bootleg Fire – the third-largest in Oregon’s history – has already burned 530 square miles of forest and grasslands since its outbreak on July 6th. Two thousand residents have been forced to evacuate and 150 homes and buildings have been destroyed. Authorities estimate that the fire is 30% contained.
Oregon's Bootleg Fire has burned an area larger than NYC and officials do not expect it to be fully contained until November.
The fire can now generate its own weather, including "fire clouds" that spark lightning.
There are about 70 other large fires burning in the U.S. pic.twitter.com/Cw7xxQGA0c
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 19, 2021
“We’ve had to fight for pretty much every foot of this, but we’re getting there,” said John Flannigan, an operations section chief, at a Monday news conference.
But, “there appears to be little hope for progress against the flames as wind gusts up to 25 mph are expected over the next couple of days,” according to CNN.
The Wall Street Journal provides context on a horrifying fire season:
Those blazes are among 80 large active wildfires burning more than 1.1 million acres across 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Nearly 20,000 firefighters are working to contain the flames, with the highest number of fires burning in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and California. Smoke from the fires extended as far east as the Tri-state area on Tuesday, the National Weather Service in New York said.
The Bootleg Fire in Oregon has already burned through 300,000 acres — and officials fear that it might not be contained until November pic.twitter.com/Se4tNX6KK3
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 20, 2021