Two bodies were found in a burned-out car in the path of a massive Northern California wildfire that raged near the Oregon border, authorities said Monday as crews battling the flames for the fourth day took advantage of the rainfall. that flooded the area.
Since it broke out on Friday, the fast-moving McKinney Fire has forced some 2,000 residents to flee while destroying homes and critical infrastructure, mainly in Siskiyou County, home to the Klamath National Forest, according to a statement from Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday. .
Authorities have yet to quantify the extent of the property losses, but the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said in an update posted Monday that more than 4,500 buildings were threatened by flames.
The U.S. Forest Service has shut down a 107-mile stretch of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California and Southern Oregon, urging dozens of hikers in that area to stop trekking and head to the nearest towns.
Smaller wildfires force 200 people to flee their homes
Already the largest fire in California this year, the fire has charred 22,457 acres of drought-stricken wood and remained at zero percent containment, Cal Fire reported.
In the same county, two smaller wildfires that have scorched more than 690 acres and forced at least 200 residents from their homes since Sunday, Cal Fire said.
The two bodies were found Sunday in a car parked in a driveway west of the Klamath River community, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday. It said it would have no additional information about the deaths pending identification and notification of next of kin.
More than two decades of drought and rising temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, have made California more vulnerable than ever to wildfires. The two most devastating years ever were in 2020 and 2021 based on the number of hectares burned.
Fire crews took advantage of a low-pressure weather system that brought rain to the northern and eastern flanks of the fire zone Sunday evening and continued to extinguish the region Monday, said Adrienne Freeman, spokesman for the US Forest Service.
But the same weather system also brings with it the potential for thunderstorms, and with them erratic winds and lightning strikes.
“The one thing we’ve learned about thunderstorms is that we can’t predict what’s going to happen,” Freeman said. “So our crews are on their way early. They are actively building containment lines at the edge of the fire, and they will continue to do so for as long as we can and hope the conditions we see now are maintained.”
A layer of heavy smoke trapped close to the ground by low pressure, a phenomenon called an “inversion layer,” has also helped curb fire growth since Sunday night, although reduced visibility also limited efforts to deploy aircraft to to fight the fire, according to Staatsbosbeheer.
‘A beautiful place… completely destroyed’
Valerie Linfoot’s son, a firefighter, called to tell her that their three-decade family home in Klamath River had burned down.
Linfoot said her husband worked for years as a US Forest Service firefighter and the family did everything they could to prepare their home for a wildfire — including installing a metal roof and trimming trees and tall grass around it. the terrain.
“It was as safe as we could make it, and it was just so dry and so hot and the fire went so fast,” Linfoot told the Bay Area News Group. She said her neighbors have also lost houses.
“It’s a beautiful place. And from what I’ve seen, it’s just been decimated. It’s absolutely destroyed,” she told the newsgroup.
Heavy smoke over the fire area helped limit the growth of the McKinney Fire on Sunday, as did grounded aircraft used to fight the blaze, the US Forest Service said in its statement.
Newsom declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou district on Sunday. The statement will help residents access federal aid and unlock state resources.
One of those forced to evacuate was Harlene Althea Schwander, 81, an artist who moved to the area just a month ago to be near her son and daughter-in-law.
“I am very sad. My house is gone, all my furniture, all clothes, shoes, jackets, boots. Everything is gone,” Schwander told Reuters on Sunday outside an American Red Cross evacuation center in the town of Weed, aged about 60. . miles south of the McKinney Fire.
It is the second major wildfire to break out in California this season. The Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park was contained 67 percent after it charred more than 7,787 acres, Cal Fire said on its website.