Oregon firefighters make progress in battle against largest US wildfire | Oregon


Firefighters in Oregon have reported good progress in the battle against the nation’s largest wildfire, while authorities canceled evacuation orders near a major blaze in northern California.

Containment of the Bootleg Fire in remote southern Oregon was up to 74% on Sunday. It was 56% contained a day earlier.

“That reflects several good days of work on the ground where crews have been able to reinforce and build additional containment lines,” fire spokesman Al Nash said.

The blaze has scorched more than 646 sq miles since being sparked by lightning on 6 July in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

California’s Dixie Fire covered nearly 383 sq miles in mountains where 42 homes and other buildings have been destroyed.

It was 32% contained on Sunday, and evacuation orders and warnings were lifted for several remote areas of Butte and Plumas counties. But authorities warned that with unpredictable winds and extremely dry fuels, the risk of flare-ups remained high.

The cause of the blaze, on 13 July, was still under investigation.

Overall, nearly 22,000 firefighters and support personnel were battling 91 large, active wildfires covering 2,813 sq miles in mostly western states, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

In Montana, a wind-driven fire destroyed more than a dozen homes, outbuildings and other structures, authorities said on Sunday. Evacuations were ordered after flames jumped a highway and moved towards communities near Flathead Lake in the north-western part of the state.

Crews also battled major blazes in north-east Washington and northern Idaho.

A historic drought and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight in the American west. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

The US Drought Monitor reported last week that while a robust monsoon has delivered rainfall to the south-west, critically dry conditions persist across northern California and the north-west, where there has been an expansion of “exceptional drought”, the worst category.

Numerous areas of the west and midwest were under air quality alerts on Sunday as wildfire smoke lingered over much of the country.

Alerts were in place across much of the northern Rockies, including portions of Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state and Idaho. Further to the east, smoke from fires burning into Canada triggered pollution alerts in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Wildfires emit huge volumes of microscopic smoke particles that researchers say can be harmful if breathed in and lead to both immediate and long-term health impacts. Children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk.