The nation’s largest wildfire raged through southern Oregon on Friday, but crews were scaling back some night operations as hard work and weaker winds helped reduce the spread of flames even as wildfires continued to threaten homes in neighboring California.
In Montana, five firefighters remained hospitalized a day after a thunderstorm and swirling winds blew a lightning-caused wildfire back on them, federal officials said.
The five had joined other crews working on the 1,300-acre Devil’s Creek fire burning in rough, steep terrain near the rural town of Jordan. The firefighters were building a defensive line Thursday when the weather shifted, Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mark Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen declined to release the extent of the firefighters’ injuries but said they were still being evaluated and treated Friday. The firefighters included three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crew members from North Dakota and two USDA Forest Service firefighters from New Mexico.
The blaze is among a number burning across the U.S. West, where extremely dry conditions and recent heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight.
In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire has destroyed an area half the size of Rhode Island. It was 40% surrounded after burning some 70 homes, mainly cabins, fire officials said. At least 2,000 homes were ordered evacuated at some point during the fire, and an additional 5,000 were threatened.
The upper eastern edge of the fire continued to move toward Summer Lake, jumping fire lines Thursday and prompting an evacuation order for some portions of Lake County to be raised to “Go now!” fire officials said.
Winds up to 10 mph (16 kph) could drive the flames through timber but not at the pace seen last week, when the wind-driven blaze grew exponentially, fire information officer Angela Goldman said.
The fire, which was ignited by lightning, had been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by strong winds and critically dry weather.