Over just two days, a fast-moving wildfire in Northern California has grown to more than 51,000 acres, becoming the state’s largest wildfire this year and forcing evacuations in rural areas under the influence of strong winds and high temperatures.
Firefighters have called the blaze “McKinney” and said it began consuming dry trees in California’s Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border, on Friday.
As of Sunday morning, there had been no reports of any injuries or deaths as a result of the incident. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency in Siskiyou County on Saturday, stating that over 2,000 residents had been ordered to evacuate. A spokesman for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office says that an extra 1,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes as a result of the ongoing wildfires.
There was still a long way to go until the blaze reached Yreka, which has a population of over 7,800 as of Sunday morning. According to Ms. Kreider, it had already damaged more than 100 properties in the immediate neighborhood, including residences and a grocery store.
Klamath National Forest spokesperson Joel Brumm said a more thorough evaluation of the damage was still awaited. As for the extent of the destruction, he stated, “We know some structures have been lost, but we have no clue how many.”
It’s been likened to “the dragon of clouds” because of the pyrocumulonimbus, a giant cloud that grew to more than 39,000 feet in the sky because of the heat from the fire. The National Weather Service says it generated its weather.
On Sunday, Brad Schaaf, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Medford, Oregon, said by phone that the fire had triggered thunderstorms, which could have sparked new flames in the area.
Approximately 50 significant wildfires and fire complexes have burned across areas of the United States so far this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The blaze remained zero percent contained as of Sunday morning. The Oak fire in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills has scorched over 19,000 acres and is threatening tens of thousands of residences and businesses. On Sunday, the blaze was around 64% contained.
The McKinney blaze breaks out just as the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the country are bracing themselves for record-breaking temperatures as a heat wave sweeps over the region.
Fires have become more intense because of the hot, dry weather and drought conditions that have lasted for days. Studies have revealed that the chance of such intense heat waves has increased as a result of human-caused climate change.
The U.S. Forest Service said that on Saturday, firefighters turned their focus from battling the perimeter of the fire to helping residents escape and protecting structures.
The Klamath National Forest was bathed in an orange glow as flames swept across it in videos and photographs. Residents saw the forest burn in the distance as Redding police officers assisted them in fleeing in their cars on almost empty roads.
On Saturday, the state’s Office of Emergency Services tweeted, “Heads up to those in the far north state.” Firefighters report that the #McKinneyFire is advancing swiftly and aggressively due to the weather conditions.
The China 2, Evans, and Kelsey Creek fires, all in the county, have combined to burn 115 acres, according to Ms. Kreider. She went on to say that a lightning strike overnight started the Kelsey Creek fire.
On Sunday, officials and meteorologists were concerned about the possibility of thunderstorms developing through Tuesday night. In the event of lightning striking during a thunderstorm, Mr. Schaaf warned that further fires could be ignited.
Some of those thunderstorm ingredients could be countered, though, by the smoke from the McKinney fire.
According to a statement released Sunday, “these conditions can be exceedingly dangerous for firefighters” as the irregular winds spread the fire in random places due to the lack of consistent breezes.