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Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon doubles in size, 3,000 homes threatened

The Bootleg Fire is burning in Klamath County, near Sprague River. Fire officials said the fire is threatening 3,000 homes and structures.

KLAMATH COUNTY, Ore. — The Bootleg Fire, a wildfire that broke out in southern Oregon’s mountains is spreading in windy, hot and dry conditions. As of Friday morning, the fire had grown to 38,892 acres, more than doubling in size during the past 24 hours. Fire officials say it is 0% contained.

The fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain in mixed conifer and lodgepole pine in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, about 10 miles northeast of the unincorporated community of Sprague River.

Gert Zoutendijk with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s incident management team said the fire is threatening 3,000 homes and structures in areas with Level 2 and 3 evacuation orders in place. On Thursday, he had said 100 were threatened but after talking with Klamath County Emergency Management, the number was updated.

Zoutendijk said the focus Friday would be continuing to verify for themselves, the number of homes and structures threatened and contacting people in those areas, "making sure we can quickly help them with making defensible space and getting our crews familiar with what is up there."

In addition, Zoutendijk said the strategy for both wildland firefighters as well as structural firefighters is changing. Now, firefighters will be more active in the evening when the fire isn't as intense.

"Daytime operations are becoming challenging and quite honestly a little dangerous at times when the fire is moving really fast, and rapidly, and hot," said Zoutendijk.

"During the day fire is very active. Our firefighters are still going to have a presence but they’re not going to be as actively engaged," he said.

Level 3 (go now) evacuation orders are in place for the Upper Tableland area north of Oregon Pinse Road, near the town of Sprague River, and the Sycan Estates area, which is north of the town of Beatty. 

Level 2 (get set) orders are in place for the area north of Highway 140 on both sides of Godowa Springs Road and the Klamath Forest Estates/Moccasin Hills area.

The official evacuation center has now been moved to the Klamath County Fairgrounds. 

That's where Kim Bergey, her fiance, five dogs, and four cats went on Thursday night.

She said she and her fiance decided to leave when they saw a plume of smoke come over a nearby ridge. It was too close for comfort. Bergey said her property is in a Level 2 evacuation area.

"Just praying for our firefighters [...] I’m praying they get it all taken care of and nobody loses their house," said Bergey.

For the latest evacuation alerts, please visit the Klamath County Facebook page.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue said Wednesday that task forces from Yamhill, Polk and Marion County were deployed to help fight the fire.

Zoutendijk said when the incident commanders heard there could be 3,000 homes and structures threatened, they called for more resources. Two strike teams arrived from California with 12 pieces of equipment on Friday morning. Another task force arrived from Clatsop County and two more, one from Clackamas County, are on their way, Zoutendijk said.

He said in total, there are now about 50 pieces of equipment, or four-wheel-drive fire engines, tasked with protecting structures.

Zoutendijk said one of the most challenging factors for fire crews are the dry conditions. He said a fire behavior specialist told crews that it is so dry right now, that if an ember were to land on grass, there is a 100% likelihood that a fire will start. If the grass is in the shade, that percentage goes down to 70%, still high.

Another fire, the Jack Fire, burning east of Roseburg in Douglas County, has grown to an estimated 5,477 acres, as of Friday morning, and officials said additional evacuations were ordered Wednesday evening in the area of Dry Creek near Highway 138.

Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act that makes more state resources available to fight the fires.