‘Everybody’s Going Crazy’: Rural Oregon Awaits Poaching


CHILOQUIN, Ore. – Tawan Murray sat in the Chiloquin High School parking lot selling concert-style “Bootleg Wildfire 2021” t-shirts as fire crews swept through mid-Oregon as firefighters struggled to contain the nation’s largest wildfire on Wednesday.

Mr. Murray is moving from town to town after the fire, some kind of doomsday merchant. “Things are slow but steady — a lot of firefighters are returning,” he said.

Bootleg Fire has burned nearly 400,000 acres in Southern Oregon since lightning struck on July 6, officials said on Wednesday. It’s the fourth-largest wildfire in the state since 1900, and it was so hot this week that it essentially created its own air and spread the unhealthy smoke as far as New York City.

About 70 miles northeast of Chiloquin, at the foot of Silver Lake, the windows of the Cowboy Dinner Tree restaurant frame miles of desert sage and forest pines beyond. The establishment takes its name from a juniper tree that has stood nearby for decades; Local history says cattle drivers stopped in its shade to dine in a mirror car along the country road.

For a week now, owners Jamie and Angel Roscoe and their five children have been preparing for an order to evacuate their businesses and nearby homes, about a mile from the Fremont National Forest, where the Runaway Fire has burned.

residents of parts of Lake County, was told to evacuate immediately, however, the Roscoe family is subject to a “Level 2 readiness” order, which means get ready and ready to leave at once.

They prepared to transport their saddle horses and rudders to neighboring farms. They have waited and watched ever since. On Wednesday, Mr. Roscoe, 43, carefully evaluated the speed and direction of the wind, assessing the threat of Leakage Fire, which he said was about 14.5 miles away “as the crow flies”.

The children prepared bags with their favorite clothes, trinkets and knives. Important documents will be left behind in a fireproof safe. Mr. Roscoe doesn’t know what his wife has in store for him. “I don’t care,” he said on Wednesday. “Everything is changeable except my family.”

The Rosco’s planned to keep their restaurant open as long as the wind was in their favour. Mr Roscoe said the fire had started from “playing some crazy leapfrog game”. Everyone is going crazy because of this fire. Extremely aggressive.”

Thick smoke was everywhere, he said, even inside. “The inside of my turntable smells like a campfire.”


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