Most of the 50 small wildfires that were reportedly sparked by lightning in southern Oregon over the weekend have been extinguished, but fire officials did not have to look far to appreciate the precarious nature of every new blaze.
Nearly a month after it was ignited by lightning, nearly 1,900 firefighters are still battling the Bootleg Fire, which has obliterated homes in southern Oregon while burning more than 400,000 acres. Cloudy and rainy weather helped those firefighters make considerable progress in recent days — the nation’s largest wildfire was 84 percent contained on Tuesday morning — but the Bootleg Fire is not projected to be fully contained until October.
Fire officials are also wary of a forecast that could temper some of the recent gains. The Klamath Falls area, where Bootleg is burning, may see temperatures in the mid-90s on Tuesday and Wednesday, with wind gusts of up to 20 miles per hour on Wednesday.
“We are dependent on weather conditions to aid our success,” said Al Nash, a spokesman working with fire officials. He added, “There remains a vulnerability because we expect hot, dry and windy weather.”
The Oregon Department of Forestry said it received reports of about 50 fires sparked by lightning during thunderstorms on Sunday. Of the 35 fires that were confirmed as active, the agency said, 20 were promptly extinguished and the ones that remain do not threaten any homes.
On Tuesday morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Gov. Kate Brown are scheduled to visit a farm in Salem — in the northwestern part of Oregon — that has been affected by the region’s lengthy drought. That extended dry spell has also provided more fuel for wildfires sparked by lightning or human behavior.