Rain and cooler conditions Tuesday brought relief to hundreds of firefighters battling a northern California wildfire that has killed two people and threatens the 8,000-person town of Yreka.
The state fire department CalFire said that although the weather has “slowed down the spread of the fire,” vegetation in the area “remains extremely dry” and is at risk of being ignited by lightning strikes.
“The continued threat of thunderstorms and associated strong, erratic winds could result in increased fire behavior,” CalFire said.
The McKinney Fire, burning in the Klamath National Forest near the Oregon border, is California’s biggest wildfire so far this year — though it remains much smaller than last year’s Dixie Fire, which burned nearly a million acres.
More than 22,000 hectares of sparsely populated forest have been devastated and the fire is zero percent contained, according to CalFire.
Firefighters are building containment lines to stop the fire from spreading, including using bulldozers to create a firebreak to protect Yreka, the county seat of Siskiyou County.
The McKinney fire killed two people, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.
Firefighters found two people dead in a burned-out car in the driveway of a home in the town of Klamath River on Sunday.
Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said the pair likely got caught in the fast-moving fire as they tried to escape.
Sherri Marchetti-Perrault, who lived on Highway 96, told the Los Angeles Times her house burned down.
“When we left, everything was on fire,” Marchetti-Perrault told the newspaper. “It happened so quickly. We went with the clothes on our backs. We couldn’t breathe and we couldn’t see.”
– ‘Keep up’ –
California, along with much of the western United States, is experiencing its worst drought in more than 1,000 years.
Drought, exacerbated by human-caused climate change, has parched the landscape and left it vulnerable to the wildfires that erupt naturally, making the blazes hotter, faster and more destructive.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Siskiyou County, and more than 2,000 rural residents are under evacuation orders.
According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, the fire destroyed more than 100 buildings — including houses, a grocery store and a community center — in the Yreka area.
“Surrounding areas should be ready to exit if necessary. Please do not hesitate to evacuate,” the county sheriff tweeted.
“I’m persevering and trying not to leave too early because I’m helping my mother,” said Rafael Franco, who lives in the mandatory evacuation area.
“She’s not in the best physical condition,” Franco told AFP.
“If I see the fire crossing the ridge where we are at the last minute, we’re going to go out and grab what we can and get going and hope for the best.”
Marjie Lawrence, who fled the Klamath River Friday night, said she went back to get some belongings in case the fire spread to her home.
“We take stuff in case the house leaves, we take stuff we want but not too many,” Lawrence said.
The McKinney Fire comes just days after the Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park destroyed dozens of buildings and forced thousands to evacuate.
California still has a month-long fire season ahead of it.
Other parts of the world have also faced intense wildfires this year, as scientists say climate change is making heat waves more frequent and intense, increasing the risk of fire.
#Firefighters #protect #California #city #threatened #wildfire