Dozens of wildfires are still burning across the West, producing smoke, poor air quality and leading to road closures in some areas. It’s unlikely the situation will get better in the coming weeks and months.

Bootleg fire

The Bootleg fire in southern Oregon has been burning since early July and now covers a little more than 300,000 acres — the size of New York City. It’s the largest fire in the U.S., first reported in Fremont-Winema National Forest, approximately 11 miles northeast of the town of Sprague River, on July 6.

According to InciWeb, the National Fire Information Center’s website, the fire was only 25% contained as of late Sunday evening. Gusty winds over the weekend, along with an ongoing severe drought, made it difficult for crews to make much headway in controlling the blaze.

Smoke from the fire is highly visible from Oregon State Highway 140 and Sprague River Highway, as well as the town of Chiloquin and the surrounding area. Drivers should expect increased traffic in the area from fire equipment, and officials are asking everyone to drive extra carefully. There is an emergency closure in place to public access/entry due to hazardous conditions created by the Bootleg fire.

Additional evacuation levels have been implemented in Lake County, which utilized its emergency alert system to notify residents in the affected areas by text, email and phone, according to InciWeb. In some areas, officials have asked people to “be set” to evacuate. This means they should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, indicating there’s a significant danger and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family or friends outside of the affected area. People may have time to gather necessary items, but doing so is at their own risk.

The Bootleg Fire erupting this evening.

A 300,000+ acre fire in southern Oregon.

— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) July 19, 2021

Beckwourth complex

The Beckwourth complex in eastern California, north of Interstate 80, has grown to 105,000 acres. It’s the second-largest fire in the country. Fortunately, this fire was 82% contained as of Sunday evening. Click here for more information on the Beckwourth complex.

Fire weather forecast

There’s little rainfall in sight for the West over the next several days. Scattered thunderstorms could pop up Monday, but many of them could be dry storms. This means they will produce lightning, which could spark new fires, but not much rain. The National Weather Service has red flag warnings posted across the interior Northwest. The long-term outlook from the Climate Prediction Center has average to below average precipitation chances across the region over the next month.

Also, winds will continue to be gusty in the Northwest, making it difficult for crews to contain some fires.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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