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The Bootleg Fire Gets Help From Firefighters From Alaska To Puerto Rico


Fire crews in Oregon are working to contain the Bootleg Fire, which, if you were wondering, is named for a nearby spring. Firefighters have come from as far away as Alaska and Puerto Rico.

Katia Riddle reports from southern Oregon.

KATIA RIDDLE, BYLINE: Every morning, outside a small town called Silver Lake, Emery Johnson and hundreds of her coworkers climb out of their tents, their RVs, and they gather around a large map. It displays the 647 square miles in Oregon that is on fire.

EMERY JOHNSON: This is where we do our morning briefing for our day operations crews.

RIDDLE: They're all housed together at what's called a spike camp in wildfire lingo, an outpost where fire workers from all over the country stay for two-week shifts.

JOHNSON: Yup. It's a whole city. We do have at least 1,100 people at this camp.

RIDDLE: Johnson came from Alaska to the work site.

JOHNSON: We do have a recycling center as well. And we've got a whole kitchen set up.

RIDDLE: The residents of the camp always seem to be sleeping or working - 16-hour shifts on the fire. There's no recreation here.

Thirty-five miles away, deep in the interior of the forest, John Glover oversees the building of a containment line. He describes the work.

JON GLOVER: So he's hauling logs out. And he'll grab that stem. And he'll cut it to length.

RIDDLE: This is about a mile away from the actual fire.

GLOVER: We don't like to just have one plan. We like to have multiple plans.

RIDDLE: Best-case scenario, says Glover, they'll never have to use this containment line.

GLOVER: We do not foresee it coming here under the current conditions. But this is a very, very large incident. And there's a lot of summer left.

RIDDLE: The small army that sleep at the camp spend most of their time doing this kind of painstaking work. It's hot. It's exhausting. And there's a lot more of it to come in the next few months.

GLOVER: So, you know, we have a high percentage of containment. But this is a massive fire.

RIDDLE: Authorities warn conditions are ideal for more fires.

Glover says, embers from the Bootleg Fire can travel long distances on the current 25 mph winds. That's why the crews won't let up and why they're planning to be here until they see the first snow.

For NPR News, I'm Katia Riddle in southern Oregon.


Katia Riddle
[Copyright 2024 NPR]