Oregon County Sheriff's Office Warns it May Arrest People Who Don't Heed Evacuation Orders

Wildfires have ripped across 10 drought-stricken Western states, prompting local authorities to warn of legal consequences for those who ignore evacuation orders.

The Klamath County Sheriff's Office said that it would cite or even arrest people who defied orders to "go now" in areas immediately threatened by the fires, the Associated Press reported.

The Bootleg fire, which is burning in southwestern Oregon near the California border, doubled in size over the weekend, threatening about 2,000 homes, according to state fire officials. At least seven homes and more than 40 other buildings have been burned, officials said.

Tim McCarley, whose home was in the evacuation zone, told KPTV-TV that he and his family were ordered to flee their home on Friday with flames at their heels.

"They told us to get the hell out 'cause if not, you're dead," he said.

He described the blaze as "like a firenado," with flames leaping dozens of feet into the air and jumping around, catching trees "and then just explosions, boom, boom, boom, boom."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Fire hot hot
A firefighter prepares to battle the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, in Plumas National Forest, Calif., on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Noah Berger/AP Photo

Nearly 60 wildfires have torn through bone-dry timber and brush from Alaska to Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Arizona, Idaho and Montana accounted for more than half of the large active fires.

The fires erupted as the West was in the grip of the second bout of dangerously high temperatures in just a few weeks. A climate change-fueled megadrought also is contributing to conditions that make fires even more dangerous, scientists say.

The National Weather Service says the heat wave appeared to have peaked in many areas, and excessive heat warnings were largely expected to expire by Tuesday. However, the warnings continued into Tuesday night in some California deserts, and many areas were still expected to see high in the 80s and 90s.

In Northern California, a combined pair of lightning-ignited blazes dubbed the Beckwourth Complex was less than 25 percent surrounded after days of battling flames fueled by winds, hot weather and low humidity that sapped the moisture from vegetation. Evacuation orders were in place for more than 3,000 residents of remote northern areas and neighboring Nevada.

There were reports of burned homes, but the damage was still being tallied. The blaze had consumed 140 square miles of land, including land in Plumas National Forest.

A fire that began Sunday in the Sierra Nevada south of Yosemite National Park exploded over 14 square miles and was just 10 percent contained. A highway that leads to Yosemite's southern entrance remained open.

The fire was burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, near the Klamath County town of Sprague River. It had ravaged an area of about 316 square miles, or more than twice the size of Portland.

Firefighters hadn't managed to surround any of it as they struggled to build containment lines.

The fire drastically disrupted service on three transmission lines providing up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity to California, and California's power grid operator has repeatedly asked for voluntary power conservation during evening hours.

Elsewhere, a forest fire started during lightning storms in southeast Washington grew to 86 square miles. It was 20 percent contained Monday.

Another fire west of Winthrop closed the scenic North Cascades Highway, the most northern route through the Cascade Range. The road provides access to North Cascades National Park and the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little mobilized the National Guard to help fight twin lightning-sparked fires that have together charred nearly 24 square miles of dry timber in the remote, drought-stricken region.

The July heat wave follows an unusual June siege of broiling temperatures in the West and comes amid worsening drought conditions throughout the region.

Scientists say human-caused climate change and decades of fire suppression that increases fuel loads have aggravated fire conditions across the region.