MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Sheriff’s deputies in southern Oregon may start arresting people who refuse to heed evacuation orders issued because of a large, growing wildfire that threatens two small towns.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the Bootleg fire to around 231 square miles (598 square kilometers) by Sunday afternoon.
The blaze is is burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest and on private land north of Sprague River and Beatty, about 290 miles (467 kilometers) southeast of Portland, Oregon. The fire is 0% contained.
Fire managers on Sunday extended a Level 3 evacuation zone to unincorporated Beatty, with a population of around 120 people. Level 3 evacuations mean residents must leave immediately.
Deputies continue to circle the area to ensure people are contacted, said Stacey Todd, a spokesperson for Klamath County Emergency Management.
She couldn’t recall a time the sheriff’s office warned of citations or arrests for failing to evacuate during a wildfire.
“I think the message has gotten out that this is a very serious fire that is unpredictable and is very high-risk to the area,” Todd said.
The National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon, warned in an alert: “The fire has doubled in size in each day for the last three days….If you live in or near an evacuation area, get set to leave. No possession is worth your life.”
The response has grown to 83 fire engines and more than 900 firefighters, with more on the way, said Rich Saalsaa, a public information officer with the Oregon State Fire Marshal designated to the Bootleg fire. Helicopters and airplanes were making water and retardant drops, officials said.
“It’s a very scary fire,” he said. “It’s moving so fast it’s creating its own weather climate.”
In central Oregon, some “go now” evacuation orders were issued for a new, small wildfire burning northwest of Redmond.