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Regional Interests

Fires prompt closures, fill air with smoke in Oregon’s Klamath and Douglas counties

An aerial view of the Bootleg Fire, photographed on July 7, 2021.
An aerial view of the Bootleg Fire, photographed on July 7, 2021.

A wildfire in Klamath County more than tripled in size Wednesday night and forced emergency closures Thursday in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, on the same day that a separate fire near Roseburg prompted road closures north of Crater Lake.

Klamath County’s Bootleg Fire was burning nearly 17,000 acres of forest service land northeast of Sprague River midday Thursday, prompting Level 1 — “get ready” — and Level 2 — “get set” — evacuation orders near the town of Beatty.

Crews have not gotten any containment on the fire yet. Air quality has dropped in the area due to smoke from the fire, and a red flag warning is in effect until 8 p.m. Thursday due to strong winds and low humidity in the area.

Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Bootleg Fire, authorizing fire crews from around the state to assist.

The conflagration order is also in effect for the Jack Fire in Douglas County. That fire started on Monday and, as of midday Thursday, was burning more than 4,200 acres near Dry Creek.

A Level 3, or “go now,” order is in effect for recreation areas, homes and businesses near the area’s Eagle Rock Campground, with specifics posted online by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials said a 14-mile stretch of Oregon Route 138 eastbound between Steamboat Creek and Lemolo Lake junction will remain closed at least into this weekend due to the Jack Fire. It’s been burning along the steep highway corridor, destroying guardrails and signs, and causing rocks and flaming debris to fall onto the roadway.

”We’re working with our partners in public and firefighter safety on when to reopen the highway to traffic. But now is not the time,” said interim ODOT District Manager Jeremiah Griffin.

ODOT has set up a checkpoint at Lemolo Lake junction for westbound traffic. The checkpoint allows local and recreation traffic access to the nearby area, including Lemolo Lake.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting