YREKA, Calif. (AP) — At least two people have died in a raging California fire that was among several thousand threatening outbreaks Monday across the western United States
Two bodies were found inside a charred vehicle Sunday in the driveway of a home near the isolated community of Klamath River, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The names of the victims and other details were not immediately released.
The McKinney Fire in northern California, near the border with Oregon, exploded in size to nearly 87 square miles (225 square kilometers) after erupting in the Klamath National Forest on Friday, officials said. fire officials. It is California’s largest wildfire of the year to date and authorities have yet to determine the cause.
Gusty winds from a thunderstorm propelled the fire of a few hundred acres into a massive conflagration while lightning sparked a few smaller fires nearby, including one near the community of Seiad Valley, officials said. firefighters.
On Monday, heavy rains helped quell the blaze, but they still threatened structures after burning more than 100 people, ranging from homes to greenhouses, firefighters and sheriff officials said.
About 2,500 people remained under evacuation orders.
“If you get an order, that means you have to go. This behavior of fire, as you will hear, is incredible. Don’t try to fight it. Don’t try to stick around,” Siskiyou County Emergency Services Office Director Bryan Schenone said at a community meeting Monday night.
Stormy and cloudy weather helped fire crews tackle the blaze, and bulldozers managed to encircle the town of Yreka, firefighters said.
On Monday, the fire was about 6.4 kilometers from the town of about 7,500 people.
The son of Valerie Linfoot, a fire dispatcher, called her to tell her that their three-decade-old family home in Klamath River had burned down. Linfoot said her husband had worked as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter for years and the family had done everything they could to prepare their home for a wildfire, including installing a metal roof and trimming the trees and tall grass around the property.
“It was as safe as it could be, and it was so dry and so hot and the fire was going so fast,” Linfoot told the Bay Area News Group.. She said her neighbors also lost homes.
“It’s a beautiful place. And from what I’ve seen it’s just decimated. It’s absolutely destroyed,” she told the news group.
In northwestern Montana, winds picked up Monday afternoon as a fire burned through wooded land west of Flathead Lake, forcing firefighters to ground all planes and driving the sheriff’s office from Lake County to begin evacuating residents from the northeast corner of the fire.
The blaze was releasing a lot of smoke, creating visibility issues for planes, said Sara Rouse, spokeswoman for the fire management team.
The blaze, which started Friday afternoon near the town of Elmo on the Flathead Indian Reservation, was 20 square miles (52 square kilometers), fire officials said.
The Moose Fire in Idaho has burned more than 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) in the Salmon-Challis National Forest while threatening homes, mining operations and fisheries near the town of Salmon. It was contained at 23% on Monday.
And a raging wildfire in northwest Nebraska prompted evacuations and destroyed or damaged several homes near the small town of Gering. The Carter Canyon Fire started on Saturday as two separate fires that merged. It was about 30% contained early Monday.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday, giving him more flexibility to make emergency response and recovery effort decisions and to tap into federal aid.
Scientists said climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The US Forest Service has closed a 110 mile (177 kilometer) section of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in northern California and southern Oregon. Sixty hikers from that area were helped evacuate Saturday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, which helped with the effort.
Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; and Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.