Large swaths of the Western half of the US experienced triple-digit temperatures this past weekend, with intense heat expected to continue through mid-week. As the West baked, a huge wildfire doubled in size in southern Oregon, continuing to threaten major transmission lines that feed power into northern California.
California and other surrounding states are plagued with a megadrought, continuing heat waves, water shortages, fears of rolling blackouts, and an early fire season that could be one for the record books.
The fire in focus Monday is the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, approximately doubling in size in the last 48 hours to more than 150,000 acres.
The U.S. Forest Service published an incident report from the weekend specifying, “firefighters, emergency managers and other public safety officials faced the fifth day in a row of extreme, intense fire behavior on the Bootleg Fire, as hot, dry, windy weather persists in the area.”
The Bootleg fire began in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near the Sprague River last Tuesday. Nearby residents in Klamath County were told to evacuate because of imminent fire danger.
On Sunday, the wildfire continued to spread and was zero percent contained. Extreme hot temperatures and a megadrought appear to be what fuels the fire.
According to NBC News, “the fire interrupted electrical lines that transmit power from Oregon to California. The state lost thousands of megawatts of imported power and struggled to maintain operating reserves as temperatures soared into triple digits in parts of the state.”
Last week, the wildfire prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue an emergency proclamation to free up additional energy supplies.
On Friday, the state’s grid operator, California Independent System Operator (ISO), was very close to triggering rolling blackouts to thwart a collapse of the power grid.
Now ISO has issued a five-hour “flex alert” beginning at 1600 local time Monday and urged consumers to “conserve as much electricity as possible” to avoid outages.
With Bootleg Fire barely contained and a heat wave to persist through mid-week, it appears the fire has more to spread, potentially affecting transmission lines to northern California