KLAMATH COUNTY, OR (KPTV) - As crews continue to battle the Bootleg Fire, the largest wildfire burning in the nation, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) says it's so large and conditions are so dry that it's creating its own weather.
ODF Operations Trainee Kyle Gibbons says the fire is now burning at more than 380,000 acres.
Gibbons says the dry conditions and wind are making it tough for fire crews.
"We had up to like a dozen lightning strikes come out of something that was basically created by the extreme fire behavior," Gibbons said. "A lot of stuff that we're seeing out there is not, it's not something that you see year after year."
Gibbons says these conditions are kind of creating their own weather.
"When we start to build what we call like a column on the fire it pulls in air from the outside and starts to kind of suck everything up almost like a chimney in your house," Gibbons said. "The fire was getting pushed with some wind, it developed its own column and it ripped out trees kind of out of the ground and it was almost like a tornado effect on the ground. You know that's been known as extreme fire behavior but it's not very common."
The fire is unpredictable, and Gibbons says it's a challenge both physically and mentally for firefighters.
"We'll get a line on them, we'll be holding it and then you know something will happen, generally it will be a wind," Gibbons said. "And then small embers get thrown across the fire line and so then you kind to start over."
Now with the fire 30% contained, Gibbons is optimistic as crews make slow but important progress.
"There is hope in place and then you know the idea is on a fire this big is you take a tiny bite out of it each day and you can slowly work your way around it," Gibbons said.
Gibbons says safety for fire crews is a top priority as they continue to get a line around the hundreds of thousands of acres that are burning in Southern Oregon.