Firefighters face red flag warning

·4 min read

Aug. 8—Firefighters face a red flag warning for hot, dry, windy conditions Monday as they battle the McKinney Fire near Yreka in Northern California.

Firefighters are dealing with the same conditions as they fight a cluster of fires in Southern Oregon north of Crater Lake National Park.

The largest fire in Oregon or California, the McKinney Fire was at 60,379 acres with 40% containment Monday morning.

Hot, windy conditions Sunday fanned interior fires that sent up smoke columns.

"We had some very large unburned islands within the interior, and they went off with a vengeance. So that showed you the potential that we're dealing with and will be dealing with the next several days," California Interagency Incident Management Team Fire Behavior Analyst Dennis Burns said in a Monday morning briefing.

Fire lines dug by firefighters and bulldozers held Sunday, he said.

"We had real hot, real dry and real windy conditions. So we started testing the lines that we've established on the fire — and we passed the test yesterday," Burns said Monday.

Firefighters hope to mop up 300 feet into the fire from the fire lines so spot fires pose less of a threat of sending embers over the perimeter, he said.

"We have another day of hot, dry and windy. We're going to continue to test our lines," Burns said.

Temperatures are forecast to reach into the 100s with winds up to 25 mph, fire officials said.

People could see more smoke columns rising from the fire's interior.

"We still have the potential for more interior islands to go, and there are some closer to the lines. Crews have been briefed. They're prepped. They're ready for it," Burns said.

Crews have staged equipment in at-risk areas to be ready if the fire does jump the lines, he said.

More than 3,260 people are assigned to the fire, fire officials said.

Monday morning, fast-moving thunderstorms moved through the area but didn't drop enough rain to help firefighters, he said.

"However, now we're on the lookout for some potential lightning starts," Burns said.

Firefighters carried out a low-intensity tactical burn to consume fuels and protect the Klamath River School, fire officials said.

The nearby Smokey Fire held at 34 acres with 75% containment as of Monday. Crews are working on mop-up operations 150 feet in from the perimeter of containment lines, fire officials said.

Multiple evacuation orders remain in effect. For updates, see, facebook.com/SiskiyouCountySheriff or facebook.com/SiskiyouCountyOES.

To the west of the McKinney Fire, the Yeti and Alex Fires were at 7,885 acres Monday morning with 50% containment.

Lines held on the fires, although residents likely will continue to see isolated pockets of burning material and smoke as interior areas of the fire burn over the next few weeks, fire officials said.

For evacuation updates, see community.zonehaven.com/

In Southern Oregon north of Crater Lake National Park, the Windigo Fire was at 1,053 acres with 25% containment. The fire is the largest of a cluster of fires in the area.

Lines on the Windigo Fire held Sunday despite hot temperatures and changing winds. But a red flag warning for lightning and gusty winds is in effect through Tuesday evening, testing fire lines again, fire officials said.

"Crews on the Windigo Fire were able to lay hoses around the entire western half and are more than 60% around the eastern side. Today, mop-up will continue around the entire perimeter," fire officials said Monday.

Nearby, the Potter Fire was at 234 acres, with firefighters working to develop and strengthen primary and contingency lines, fire officials said.

The Big Swamp Fire was measure at 102 acres after an overnight infrared flight, fire officials said Monday.

Crews fought spot fires Sunday while bulldozers improved lines. Firefighters planned to continue strengthening lines and adding hoses Monday, while watching for opportunities for a more direct attack on the eastern flank by using Forest Road 2153, fire officials said.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the high 80s, with wind gusts up to 15 mph. The fires have the potential to spot ahead by up to a half-mile, with an 80%-85% chance of ignition if sparks or embers land on dry fuels, fire officials said.

Resources on the fires included 674 people, 33 engines, heavy equipment, eight type 1 helicopters and one type 3 helicopter. Two water-scooping airplanes were available out of Eugene, fire officials said.

Air quality was in the moderate category Monday morning in Medford, Ashland, Talent and Grants Pass. Shady Cove was in the good category, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

For air quality updates around the state, see oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.