What Happens When the Bootleg Fire is Fully Contained?

In an interview with Jefferson Public Radio, Lisa Ellsworth, as assistant professor at Oregon State University who specializes in fire ecology, talked about what comes next for the Bootleg Fire. The fire is approaching almost 100% containment, meaning fire suppression resources have been established around the perimeter of the fire. Ellsworth explained that, while the fire can no longer go anywhere, we shouldn’t expect it to go out anytime soon.  

“It’ll be mostly out after we’ve gotten several really good rains. People should not be alarmed if they still see smoke well into the winter on a warmer day,” said Ellsworth.  

Once the fire is totally contained, the next phase is for a Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation team to come in. “That’s a team of managers and scientists who are going to assess what’s needed to stabilize this area,” said Ellsworth. The BAER team will be on the lookout for potential post-fire dangers like hazard trees and water erosion. The first few weeks will be dedicated to mitigating these hazards; over the course of months and years, the team will survey the area and determine which places would benefit from ecological management and rehabilitation.   

Even with the containment line nearly encompassing the fire, the safety of adjacent communities must continue to be monitored. “We can’t say with 100% certainty that there is no risk,” said Ellsworth. “There’s still the few miles of active flaming front moving through there and we’re going into several days of pretty extreme fire weather but they wouldn’t remove the evacuation order if they believed that there was still a risk to communities.”  

In addition, while the size of the burn — nearly 413,000 acres — may seem daunting, Ellsworth said that the fire perimeter, like any other, is of varying degrees of severity. In other words, it’s not over 400,000 acres of total devastation.   

Ellsworth concluded the interview by noting that these fires are no longer unprecedented. “This fire and several of the big ones that we’re seeing this year really make clear the evidence of human-caused climate change in our forests. And I expect that we’ll be seeing fires like this more years than not in the future,” she said. “We are seeing fires like this every year and we need to be prepared for a future with more fires. So, the preventative measures that we can take are incredibly important.”  

By Jalen Todd