A brutal start to the wildfire season in the western United States and Canada worsened on Thursday as a massive Oregon blaze exploded in dry, windy conditions and a new California blaze threatened communities devastated by the 2018 Camp Fire.
Wildfire officials raised their preparedness level to the highest tier – the earliest such move in a decade – and Canada’s military joined evacuation efforts, as the region reels from the effects of consecutive heat waves that experts say have been worsened by global warming.
‘This fire is going to continue to grow – the extremely dry vegetation and weather are not in our favour,’ said Joe Hessel, who is leading a team tackling Oregon’s 227,000-acre Bootleg Fire.
Burning through the equivalent of 130,000 soccer fields, the Bootleg Fire some 250 miles south of Portland is the largest active blaze in the US, bellowing heavy smoke visible from space that is blanketing parts of neighbouring Washington and Idaho.
Firefighters have been dispatched from as far away as San Francisco to tackle the massive blaze, which is showing ‘extreme’ growth through drought-affected brush and due to hot, dry and breezy conditions.
It began more than a week ago and is just 7% contained, having destroyed 21 homes and threatening almost 2,000 more.
The inferno is just one of around 70 large fires burning some one million acres (400,000 hectares) in the US alone.
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