A towering cloud of hot air, smoke and moisture that reached airliner heights and spawned lightning. Wind-driven fronts of flame that have stampeded across the landscape, often leapfrogging firebreaks. Even, possibly, a rare fire tornado.
The Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon, spurred by months of drought and last month’s blistering heat wave, is the largest wildfire so far this year in the United States, having already burned more than 340,000 acres, or 530 square miles, of forest and grasslands.
And at a time when climate change is causing wildfires to be larger and more intense, it’s also one of the most extreme, so big and hot that it’s affecting winds and otherwise disrupting the atmosphere.