The biggest fire in California this year is forcing thousands of people to evacuate as it destroys homes and tears through the state’s arid terrain, which was whipped up by strong winds and thunderstorms on Sunday.
The McKinney Fire was zero percent contained as it burned in Northern California’s Klamath National Forest, CalFire said, spreading across more than 51,000 acres near the town of Yreka.
It’s California’s biggest wildfire so far this year, with the state already battling multiple blazes this summer.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday, saying the fire “destroyed homes” and “threatened critical infrastructure” after it erupted on Friday.
The fire was “intensified and spread by dry fuels, extreme drought conditions, high temperatures, winds and thunderstorms,” Newsom said in a statement.
According to the California Office of Emergency Services (OES), more than 2,000 residents were under evacuation orders and about 200 were under evacuation warnings, mostly in Siskiyou County.
“The surrounding areas should be ready to go if necessary. Please do not hesitate to evacuate,” the Siskiyou County Sheriff tweeted.
Highway 96 and McKinney Creed Road southwest of the Klamath River have been closed to the public, according to CalFire.
Larry Castle, a Yreka resident, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that he and his wife packed up some belongings and their three dogs to leave the area for the night, as other fires in recent years had shown them that the situation could become “very, very serious”.
Nearly 650 people worked Sunday to put out the fire, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group said.
Firefighters have been dispatched from nearby Oregon to help with containment efforts, the Oregon State Fire Marshall said, as the Klamath National Forest is also dealing with the Kelsey Creek Fire.
The record-breaking fire ignited just days after the largest fire of the year raged in central California.
The oak fire near Yosemite National Park broke out in mid-July and spread quickly, destroying 41 buildings and forcing thousands to evacuate.
California, which is facing a nagging drought, still has a month-long fire season ahead of it.
In recent years, huge and fast-moving wildfires fueled by a warming climate have ravaged California and other parts of the western United States.
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