McKinney Fire updates: Containment rises to 30%

·3 min read

Containment on the McKinney Fire in western Siskiyou County has risen to 30%, up from 10% during the prior few days, fire officials said at a community meeting on Friday evening.

The wildfire is continuing to inch up in size, measuring 60,044 acres as of Saturday morning.

A survey that's underway has found the McKinney Fire has destroyed 87 homes and 45 other structures, fire officials said.

Crews doing inspections found another 134 structures had not been damaged, while four structures received minor damage.

The inspection crews have examined a total of 274 structures so far in the initial damage assessment phase, which is more than 50% complete, the Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services said on Friday.

Four people have died in the wildfire, the largest in California so far this fire season. Those individuals have not yet been identified.

Officials say they expect to gain more containment as fire crews aggressively fight the blaze and dig fire lines. There is no expected date for full containment, according to state fire authorities.

While the situation has improved with more than 2,700 personnel working on the fire, "It's not out yet," Klamath National Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith said. Lightning is continuing to spark fires in the area, she said.

"I wanted to ask you to stay vigilant and remain patient. The next 72 hours are going to be pretty important for us as we're working to button up this fire," Smith said.

Fire behavior analyst Dennis Burns cautioned that conditions forecast for Sunday and Monday "are going to be almost identical to when this fire started. The biggest fear is that we have a jackpot of unburned fuel within the fire perimeter ... and it ignites."

Saturday is expected to be hot and dry, with a potential for thunderstorms that could start fires, Burns said.

There have been some recent wins, according to Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue.

"It is very exciting that we have been able to get people back into their homes. Others are still waiting. We just ask for continued patience as we move forward. This is a long process," he said.

After several sections of Yreka and Hawkinsville were downgraded from evacuation orders to evacuation warnings, residents there were able to return to their homes, the Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services said.

Late Friday afternoon, the sheriff issued new evacuation warnings for some areas east of Happy Camp due to wildfire activity.

Pushed by dry conditions and wind, the McKinney Fire leveled the small town of Klamath River. Thunderstorms on Tuesday evening led to flash flooding and destructive flows of mud and debris in the wildfire area.

More than 7,300 of the county's 44,000 residents have been affected by evacuation orders or warnings since the wildfire started July 29, officials said.

Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Service Director Bryan Schenone said 6,000 structures were located within the current evacuation zones.

The cause of the McKinney Fire remains under investigation by a specialized U.S. Forest Service team.

Yeti and Alex fires

A community meeting about the lightning-caused Yeti and Alex fires is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Happy Camp High School, 234 Indian Creek Road. A livestream will be at Facebook.com/KlamathNF.

The two fires were a combined 7,721 acres as of Saturday morning. The Yeti Fire was 7,570 acres with 0% containment and the Alex Fire was 151 acres with 20% containment.

Michele Chandler covers criminal justice issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-338-7753 or email her at michele.chandler@redding.com. Please support our entire newsroom's commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.

This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: McKinney Fire updates: Containment rises to 30%