Bootleg Fire aftermath is 'a travesty,' Oregon rancher says

·2 min read

The Bootleg Fire has scorched more than 413,000 acres across southern Oregon, with expanses clouded by smoke and haze. Fueled by dry and windy weather, the blaze continues to spread.

For one rancher, the scene has been difficult to take in.

"It's a travesty. Everything here is pretty hard to stomach. It's not a real palatable sight when you look at dead livestock, dead wildlife, dead stands of timber," Mike Mistagni, who owns Five Mile Ranch in Oregon, told AFP.

Mike Mistagni, who owns Five Mile Ranch in Oregon, looks at the damage left behind from the Bootleg Fire (AFP).

The Bootleg Fire, located about 15 miles northwest of Beatty, Oregon, has been burning since July 6, according to the government's National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Last Monday, the Bootleg Fire merged with the nearby Log Fire.

Joe Hessel, Incident Commander for the Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team, said in a release that "severe weather conditions and extremely dry fuels" continue to challenge firefighters.

About 85% of the West is under at least "severe drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

More than 2,000 personnel have been assigned to battle the blaze. But in Mistagni's eyes, the landowners, "whether it's ranchers, farmers or loggers," are the "first defenders."

A small brush fires spreads ahead of a containment line near the Northwest edge of the Bootleg Fire on Friday, July 23, 2021, near Paisley, Ore. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

"This land provides for us. And if we don't defend it and nurture it, we don't have anything," he said.

As the blaze barreled toward Five Mile Ranch, Mistagni said that he and others took measures to keep the flames at bay. They cut dozer lines in the north when the fire was spotted. When the fire jumped over them, Mistagni retreated south and cut more lines, he told AFP.

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"At a point, we relied on the rail bed to be a fire break," he explained. "Eventually, we were south of the rail bed and cut more line. We didn't stop it, but we slowed it down. And we kept it from traveling south."

A small brush fires spreads ahead of a containment line near the Northwest edge of the Bootleg Fire on Friday, July 23, 2021, near Paisley, Ore. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

Mistagni said he thinks it will take centuries for the land to return to what it was.

"I don't think this thing's gonna heal in the next 250 years. My grandkids won't see it be like it was a month ago," he told AFP." "But we're not dead. We've got our homes. So, you gotta weigh your blessings I suppose."

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