'If you don't leave, you're dead': Fleeing Oregon's Bootleg Fire

The growing Bootleg Fire continued to devour forest in south-central Oregon on Tuesday, after forcing hundreds of residents in the Klamath Falls area to evacuate, some of whom recounted a harrowing escape.

EVACUEE TIM McCARLEY: "The sheriff pulled up, sparks and embers were coming down. Says 'you better get the hell -- if you don't leave, you're dead.'"

Reuters visited this Red Cross evacuation center in Klamath County, where residents, including Tim McCarly, spent Monday night.

McCARLEY: "You know, before you hear reports of this and these people there and you go oh, poor people, oh poor people, oh that's horrible. But when you're with them, experiencing the same thing and hearing stories, it gives you a different outlook on life. It gives you a different outlook on compassion."

As of Tuesday, the Bootleg Fire had burned through more than 200,000 acres and is just one of a number of major wildfires raging nearly unchecked in drought-stricken Oregon.

The fires also come amid an unseasonable heat wave, the third for the region this year, an anomaly that many experts attribute to climate change. Dale Kunce, who heads the Red Cross Cascades Region in Oregon, is among them.

KUNCE: "So this is not the first wildfire of the season. It certainly won't be the last. It may be the biggest at the end of it, but it won't be the last that impacts people. And what we've seen as the Red Cross is really this change from a one big event a year or one big event every five years or ten years, to now we're seeing chronic events... And, unfortunately, this fire, the Bootleg Fire, got going and without really anything to stand in its way it's just been rampaging with big high winds and really high temperatures, and it's just been moving and moving and moving."

The Bootleg Fire, which has been burning since July 6, is now the largest active blaze in the nation, covering an area larger than the size of New York City.