Firefighters face dangerous weather to fight McKinney blaze

Firefighters were expecting triple-digit temperatures and thunderstorms that could spark dangerous conditions Sunday in the battle against an out-of-control blaze near California’s border with Oregon.

The McKinney Fire had ravaged more than 51,468 acres in the Klamath National Forest by Sunday morning, destroying homes and threatening hundreds more in nearby communities. It was 0% contained.

“The big difference is that we have a lot more resources that have been burned,” US Forest Service spokeswoman Caroline Quintanilla said Sunday morning. “We went from zero to 650 people.

Quintanilla said firefighters were exploiting old bulldozer lines from past fires in the area.

“This area gets a lot of fires,” Quintanilla said. “But the particular area where the fire is currently burning hasn’t burned since the mid-1950s. So that’s also part of the concern and the complexity, because it hasn’t burned for a long time.

Officials said Sunday that firefighters were prioritizing protecting the communities of Fort Jones and Yreka and in the Highway 96 corridor. Highway 96 was closed along the Klamath River, where crews worked for at night to prevent homes and buildings from burning, forestry officials said in a social media update.

Some neighborhoods on the west side of Yreka have been ordered to evacuate, although officials said they saw little progress overnight at the edge of the blaze closest to town.

“Yreka is definitely of concern, as are other populated areas like Fort Jones,” Quintanilla said. “So we are focused on protecting people, life and property.”

A red flag warning was in effect due to scorching temperatures, which averaged around 100 degrees across the region on Sunday, officials said.

“The fire is getting more energetic and the potential for fire spread is increasing,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Garner. “It just becomes a more active fire when the temperatures warm up like this.”

Thunderstorms were expected later in the afternoon, which he said could bring lightning that could spark new fires in the area as well as erratic gusty winds. All this makes fire behavior unpredictable.

“And it’s dangerous for firefighters,” Garner said.

The Red Cross opened a shelter in the town of Weed on Saturday evening after closing its location in Yreka when the area was ordered to evacuate, according to Stephen Walsh, a spokesman for the organization.

Twenty-two people are staying at the shelter, where they are offered beds, food and spiritual care, Walsh said.

“They can stay as long as they need, and obviously the shelters are open to everyone,” he said.

Siskiyou County officials created a webpage to help residents find rescued dogs, cats and livestock in the evacuation zone. The animals were cared for in various shelters.

The fire started around 2:38 p.m. Friday near Highway 96 and McKinney Creed Road southwest of the Klamath River, according to Cal Fire. The cause is still under investigation.

Los Angeles Times

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