Officials said Friday that the McKinney fire, which has killed four people and burned nearly 60,000 acres in the Klamath National Forest, has destroyed 132 buildings, including 87 homes.
A week after the fire started, firefighters slowed it down, but fire officials have warned that flames could still run.
As of Friday night, 30 percent of the fire near the border between California and Oregon was contained. Crews were keeping an eye on it.
The fire has burned about 300 acres in the last 24 hours, the Klamath National Forest said. This is a big drop from the last week when it burned through 59,666 acres.
During a briefing on Friday, Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst for the U.S. Forest Service, said, “We did see some growth in the fire.” “Everything was in the rules.”
After battling through mudslides and thunderstorms Wednesday, firefighters on Thursday witnessed warmer temperatures and dryer air, excellent conditions for fire growth.
Burns said, “The fire fought back in kind.”
Years of drought have also had an effect, he said at a community meeting on Friday night, adding that the fuels are the driest he’s seen in 40 years of fighting fires.
Short-range spots were seen in the southwest and west corners of the fire by the 2,700 firefighters who were there, but the fire’s short progress stayed in areas where firefighters could keep it under control.
Burns said, “Everything stayed where we wanted it to stay.”
He said that crews have been able to build fire lines around most of the fire, which has slowed its growth.
Burns said that on the east side of the fire, the flames could still break through the lines and move forward.
Wednesday, thunderstorms in the eastern half brought about 3 inches of rain, but the water didn’t put out the fires.
He said, “The fire was acting as if it had never rained at all.”
At a meeting on Friday night, officials said that lightning strikes caused by storms in the area meant that new fires will need crews and other resources. However, firefighters working on the McKinney fire are still committed to putting it out completely, they said.
Darryl Laws, a unified incident commander with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that the firefighting effort was “in a different place” than when the fire first started and grew quickly, sending up a raging pyrocumulonimbus cloud.
“A lot of people are going to have to work on this,” Laws said. “It kind of laid down there and is waiting to jump up. The weather is going to be rough. There will be some winds. We’re still not out of danger.”
As a safety measure, firefighters were using bulldozers to build backup lines in case the fire lines did not hold.
Over the weekend, firefighters will likely keep working in the high heat to extend containment lines. On Saturday, it was expected to be in the mid-90s. On Sunday, it could be more than 100 degrees.