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Oregon's Bootleg Fire is generating its own weather

Written by on July 20, 2021

The super-heated air and smoke from Oregon’s Bootleg wildfire have reportedly impacted the weather

A pyrocumulus cloud from the fire – also known as a “fire cloud” – has formed over the blaze, bringing lightning and other threats and extending upward to 30,000 feet.

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The fire, located 15 miles northwest of Beatty, has already scorched more than 364,000 acres in two weeks and has been contained to 30% by the more than 2,200 personnel working to fight the flames – some of which had hopscotched over fire-retardant containment lines.

Skies in New York City and across the East Coast were hazy against a bright orange sun on Tuesday as the smoke from Bootleg and other Western wildfires was blown eastward.

In this photo taken with a drone provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, is seen over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (Bootleg Fire Incident Command via AP)

In this photo taken with a drone provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, is seen over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (Bootleg Fire Incident Command via AP)

Meteorologists have also spotted bigger forms of fire clouds over the past couple of weeks – including “terrifying” pyrocumulonimbus clouds that can form “fire tornadoes,” dangerous wind gusts and hail.

The same types of clouds were seen over California fires in 2020, Australian bush fires in 2019 and 2020, and the wildfire in British Columbia that leveled the village of Lytton last month following a killer heat wave.

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On Friday, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said the agency has observed a “record number” of these fire-induced clouds in North America this summer as the impact of climate change continues to exacerbate fire and drought conditions.

At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated and another 5,000 have been threatened.

In addition, 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have been destroyed, though no one died thanks in part due to the Bootleg Fire’s rural location. 

In this photo provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a public information officer talks with evacuees at a Red Cross Shelter near the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, Sunday, July 18, 2021. (Bootleg Fire Incident Command via AP)

In this photo provided by the Bootleg Fire Incident Command, a public information officer talks with evacuees at a Red Cross Shelter near the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, Sunday, July 18, 2021. (Bootleg Fire Incident Command via AP)

However, the threat of thunderstorms through Monday could fan the fire and bring even more lightning as winds from the southwest push the fire to the north and east.

Oregon officials have called for help outside of the Pacific Northwest to prepare for additional fires.

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The Bootleg Fire is around the fourth largest the state has ever experienced.

There are currently fires burning across the U.S. in 12 states, including 16 in Oregon and Washington state alone.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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