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2 new fires expand rapidly in Southern Oregon

Photo: InciWeb

Two new wildfires started by lightning Thursday afternoon grew rapidly Friday in southeastern Oregon not far from the site of the Bootleg fire, which until recently was the nation’s largest blaze.

The Patton Meadow fire about 14 miles west of Lakeview, near the California border, exploded to 11 square miles (28 square kilometers) in less than 24 hours in a landscape sucked dry by extreme drought.

An RV park was evacuated overnight in the remote region that's dotted with ranches, rural subdivisions, campgrounds and RV parks. The largest town in the area, Lakeview, has a population of about 2,600 people.

Another nearby fire was smaller but also growing and was just over one square mile Friday afternoon.

Gov. Kate Brown declared an emergency to help get firefighting crews and resources to the Patton Meadow fire, which is also threatening communication infrastructure, authorities said.

Tamara Schmidt, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman with the fire incident command team, said fire growth was extremely rapid due to the weather conditions.

“That’s substantial fire activity,” she said. “We’re still in initial attack, this is a really fresh fire.”

The fires are near the area torched by the monstrous Bootleg fire, which until recently was the nation's largest blaze. That fire started July 6 and burned an area more than half the size of Rhode Island before crews gained the upper hand. The fire is 98% contained.

Triple-digit temperatures and bone-dry conditions in the state, which is undergoing a third day of extreme heat, will increase the fire risk in Oregon through the weekend, officials warned.