Massive Oregon wildfire spreads but remote location limits scope of damage

The monstrous wildfire burning in Oregon has grown to one-third the size of Rhode Island and spreads kilometres each day. But evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California.

The fire’s jaw-dropping size contrasted with its relatively small impact on people underscores the vastness of the American West and offers a reminder that Oregon — which is larger than Britain — is still a largely rural state, despite being known mostly for its largest city, Portland.

The 1,210-square-kilometre Bootleg Fire, which was 25 per cent contained as of Monday, is burning about 480 kilometres southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges.

If the fire were in densely populated parts of California, “it would have destroyed thousands of homes by now,” said James Johnston, a researcher with Oregon State University’s college of forestry who studies historical wildfires.

“But it is burning in one of the more remote areas of the lower 48 states. It’s not the Bay Area out there.”

At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Thick smoke chokes the area where residents and wildlife alike have already been dealing with months of drought and extreme heat. No one has died.

Here are some images out of Oregon.

Fighting the flames

A firefighting aircraft returns to base amid massive plumes of smoke after dropping flame retardant on the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Ore., on July 15.

(Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters)

Firefighters extinguish hot spots in an area hit hard by the wildfire near Bly on Monday.

(David Ryder/Reuters)

Oregon National Guardsmen regroup at the Bootleg Fire command centre in Chiloquin, Ore., on July 14.

(Nathan Howard/The Associated Press)

The wildfire burns at night near Highway 34 in southern Oregon on July 15.

(Jason Pettigrew/Bootleg Fire Incident Command/The Associated Press)

Firefighter Nahum Reyes sleeps under a fire truck after his shift in Bly on July 15.

(Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters)

Osmose Utilities Services workers Nick Beasley, left, and Cody Mabee attach fire-retardant mesh to a power line near Bly on July 17.

(Payton Bruni/AFP/Getty Images)

Property, lives threatened

Bob Dillon poses for a portrait on the ashes of an extinguished fire that surrounded his home caused by the Bootleg Fire in Beatty, Ore., on July 16.

(Payton Bruni/AFP/Getty Images)

Fire evacuee Mary Gerlach tends to her horse at a Red Cross disaster shelter in Klamath Falls, Ore., on July 14.

(Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters)

A sign thanks firefighters as the Bootleg Fire continues to grow in size near Chiloquin on July 18.

(David Ryder/Reuters)

Cattle graze under a sunset tinted with colour from wildfire smoke near Bly on July 18.

(David Ryder/Reuters)

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