FILE — Bootleg Firefighter

Firefighter Garrett Suza, with the Chiloquin Forest Service, mops up a hot spot on the North East side of the Bootleg Fire, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, near Sprague River, Ore.

(The Center Square) – California is sending in firefighters to help quell Oregon's Bootleg Fire as the blaze inches ever closer to the interstate border.

The 247,000-acre fire has grown at a rapid pace since it was reported on July 6. On Friday, INCIWEB showed the fast-moving inferno has grown to 326 square miles or larger than the landmass of San Diego. The wildfire, which became the nation's most extensive earlier this week, threatens more than 3,000 homes in Klamath County, where all levels of evacuation notices are in place. It is 7% contained.

On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state is sending in eight fire teams and 40 fire engines to help keep the fire at bay. The action was part of a mutual aid agreement between the two states and answers a request for help from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Oregon has deployed dozens of its own National Guard members to complement the state's firefighters in the Klamath region.

Conditions on the ground in Klamath County is growing more dangerous for firefighters in the past week. Friday marked the fourth straight day crews on the line retreated as the Bootleg Fire crept into neighboring Lake County in Southeast Oregon. It's also nearing a prized California forest critical to the state's climate-centric cap and trade program.

"The Bootleg Fire perimeter is more than 200 miles long—that's an enormous amount of line to build and hold," said Rob Allen, Incident Commander for the Pacific Northwest Area Incident Management Team 2. "We are continuing to use every resource from dozers to air tankers to engage where it's safe to do so especially with the hot, dry, windy conditions predicted to worsen into the weekend."

Firefighters in the area will continue protecting and wrapping homes around the area as a precaution. Homes in the vicinity of Summer Lake and Spring Lake in Lake County are now under evacuation. Most are ordered to leave immediately.

The Bootleg Fire is burning Klamath County's Fremont-Winema National Forest 11 miles northeast of the town of Sprague River. Smoke from the fire can be seen from State Highway 140, Sprague River Highway and the surrounding area. Traffic slowdowns are in effect as firefighters travel to and from the scene.

Oregon is home to three major fires, according to INCIWEB. The Jack Fire in Douglas County is at 12,500 acres and is 15% contained. The Grandview Fire around Crooked River National Grassland is burning 5,700 acres and is 5% contained. More than 265,000 acres in Oregon have burned so far this year, state agencies report.

The newest fire in Oregon, the Bruler Fire near Detroit, is burning 60 acres since it was reported on Monday, U.S. Forest Service officials say. It is 0% contained, the agency said, and not threatening any structures.

California is bracing for a destructive wildfire season of its own. Its biggest fire, the Beckwourth Complex Fire, has swelled to more than 106,000 acres. It's 68% contained as of Friday, INCIWEB reports.

Since January, some 4,990 fires fueled by severe drought conditions have ripped through California. That's 700 fires more than this time in 2020, Cal Fire reports. 

Cal Fire data shows fires in 2021 burnt at least 119 structures and burned more than 142,000 acres this year. In 2020, more than 10,000 structures were damaged or destroyed, and 33 people were killed. No deaths have been reported this fire season in California.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.