Crews battling the largest wildfire so far this year in California braced for thunderstorms and hot, windy conditions that created the potential for more fire growth on Sunday as they sought to protect remote communities.
The McKinney Fire was out of control in the Klamath National Forest in northern California, with expected thunderstorms a big concern Sunday just south of the Oregon state line, the gate said. – US Forest Service spokesperson, Adrienne Freeman.
“The fuel beds are so dry they can just shoot out of this flash,” Freeman said. “These thunder cells are accompanied by erratic gusty winds that can blow fire in any direction.”
The fire exploded over 207 square kilometers just two days after erupting in a largely uninhabited area of Siskiyou County, according to an incident report on Sunday. The cause was under investigation.
The blaze torched trees along California’s Highway 96, and the burned remains of a pickup truck lay in a lane of the freeway. Thick smoke blanketed the area and flames burned across the hills within sight of homes.
A second, smaller fire just to the west, sparked by dry lightning on Saturday, threatened the small town of Seiad, Freeman said. About 400 structures were threatened by the two California fires. Authorities have yet to confirm the extent of the damage, saying assessments will begin when it is safe to reach the area.
A third fire, which started at the southwest end of the McKinney Fire, triggered evacuation orders for about 500 homes on Sunday, said Courtney Kreider, a spokeswoman for the county sheriff’s office. by Siskiyou. The office said crews had been at the scene of the blaze since Saturday evening but the blaze on Sunday morning “escaped its containment line”.
Several people from the sheriff’s office have been affected by the evacuation orders “and they’re still showing up for work, so (a) very dedicated team,” she said. An MP lost his childhood home to a fire on Friday, she said.
As the McKinney Fire threatened, some residents chose to stay while others obeyed orders to leave.
Larry Castle and his wife, Nancy, were among approximately 2,000 residents of the Yreka area under evacuation orders. They left on Saturday with some of their most prized possessions, including Larry’s motorcycle, and took their dogs to their daughter’s home near Mount Shasta.
Larry Castle said he was taking no chances after seeing the explosive growth of major fires in recent years.
“You look back at the Paradise fire and the Santa Rosa fire and you realize these things are very, very serious,” he told the Sacramento Bee.
Montana and Idaho
In northwestern Montana, a fire started in the prairies near the town of Elmo had grown to about 27 square miles after entering the forest. Crews were working along the edges of the blaze on Sunday, and planes were expected to continue making water and retardant drops to help slow the blaze’s progress, said Sara Rouse, spokeswoman for the interagency fire team. High temperatures and erratic winds were expected, she said.
A section of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo that had been closed was reopened and drivers were told to watch for fires and emergency personnel. Visibility in the area was poor, Rouse said.
In Idaho, the Moose Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest burned over 120 square miles (196 km2) of forested land near the town of Salmon. It was 21% contained on Sunday morning. Pila Malolo, fire planning operations section chief, said in a Facebook video update that hot, dry conditions were expected to persist on Sunday. Officials said they expected the fire to grow in the steep and rugged country on the south side of the blaze.
Elsewhere in the West
Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The Pacific Coast Trail Association urged hikers to get to the nearest town while the US Forest Service closed a 177km section of the trail from Mount Etna’s summit to Mount Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.
In Hawaii, the Maui County Emergency Management Agency said a brushfire was 90% contained, but a red flag warning was in effect for much of Sunday.
And in North Texas, firefighters continued to work to contain the 2-week, 27-square-mile Chalk Mountain Fire. Crews are now reporting 83% containment of the blaze that destroyed 16 homes and damaged five others about 80 miles southwest of Fort Worth. No injuries were reported.