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Bootleg Fire Doubles In Size To More Than 143,600 Acres; Vital Grid Power Lines Threatened

CHILOQUIN, Ore. (CBS SF/AP) -- The raging Bootleg Fire, fueled by tinder-dry forest land and gusty winds in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, exploded in size overnight to more than 146,000 acres near the California-Oregon border.

The blaze continues to pose a threat to Path 66 -- a vital electric line corridor linking the California power grid to suppliers in the Pacific Northwest.

"The fire is still right there around those power lines," Gert Zoutendijk, a public information officer for the Oregon State Fire Marshal, said.

The fire -- which had zero containment early Monday --is burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest and on private land north of Sprague River and Beatty. The region like much of California has been suffering through drought conditions.

"The fire will continue to be extremely active in unchecked portions of the perimeter, with unstable air conditions and extremely dry fuels," the forest service said in a Sunday fire update. "Spread direction will be dictated primarily by topography and drought-stressed fuels. Continued persistent drought and dry conditions will encourage spotting."

When charactering the fire conditions early Sunday, the forest service described them as "extreme, crowning, wind-driven runs, spotting."

Zoutendijk said the fire has experienced stunning growth each day since it began last Tuesday.

"Really the fire is just exploding and continuing to grow dramatically," Zoutendijk said on Saturday. "We are seeing doubling in size of the fire every 24 hours. We started with a smaller 3,000 acre fire, went to 16,000, then it went up to 35,000, and then 76,000 acres. So we know even during the day it'd getting bigger."

He said there was an abundance of fuel to help advance the blaze.

"The fuels on the ground that would start a fire are in the sun at a 100 percent receptive rate," he said. "So what that means if an amber falls on any of the fuels that are the ground -- bushes, brush, pine needles, leaves -- there is a 100 percent likelihood that a fire will start. Every amber that falls will start a new fire."

On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom dispatched firefighting teams from Northern California to Oregon. Two strike teams consisting of Type 3 and Type 6 engines from Fremont, Oakland, Hayward, Alameda County, South San Francisco, San Bruno, the Central Fire District, San Mateo and Kentfield were sent north to battle the blaze.

CAISO and other grid operators were monitoring the fire as it was burning in the proximity of the California Oregon Intertie — also known as Path 66. It's a corridor of three parallel 500kV power lines that connects the power grids of Oregon and California.

The three lines are owned by PG&E, PacifiCorp, the Western Area Power Administration and the Transmission Agency of Northern California. PG&E officials on Friday activated the utility's Emergency Operations Center to monitor the situation and manage any eventualities.

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