Two people in the McKinney Fire’s path were found dead as California’s largest wildfire of 2022 burned more than 50,000 acres in Klamath National Forest over the weekend, a sheriff’s office said Monday.
Fire personnel found two bodies inside a burned vehicle parked in a residential driveway west of the Klamath River community Sunday morning, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office reported. The people were not identified.
There are “a lot of unanswered questions as to who these individuals are,” Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah Larue said during a Monday evening news conference. He said the county hasn’t received any reports of missing people.
The uncontrolled McKinney Fire grew to 86 square miles Monday morning, according to the US Forest Service’s Klamath National Forest division. The densely forested region in Northern California has experienced a long-term severe drought, according to AccuWeather.
Lightning strikes and dry conditions caused the fire to explode to 18,000 acres in a matter of hours when it ignited Friday, CalFire Unified Incident Commander Darryl Laws said Monday evening.
“Mother nature wasn’t very nice to us when this fire started,” he said.
But increased humidity and precipitation throughout Monday gave firefighters an advantage in battling the blaze, according to fire officials. Phil Anzo, the CalFire Siskiyou unit chief, said firefighters were “blessed” to have received some rain Monday.
“There is a lot of work to do ahead of us,” he said.
The McKinney Fire remains 0% contained as of Monday evening.
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More than 2,000 people were forced from their homes as the growing wildfire raged west of Yreka City, about 22 miles south of the California-Oregon border.
A heavy smoke inversion – when smoke hangs low to the ground – helped limit the fire’s growth Sunday but also kept aircraft mostly grounded, according to the Forest Service.
Any afternoon thunderstorm activity this week could feature dry lightning strikes that can spark additional fires, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.
Officials haven’t confirmed how many structures have been damaged or destroyed by the fire, but the popular Klamath River Lodge, which had its heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s, was burned in the fire. Also lost was the Klamath River Community Hall. A roadside sign and a flagpole with the US flag flapping in the wind were all that was left Sunday.
Crews are still investigating the cause of the McKinney Fire, which ignited July 29 and quickly surpassed the Oak Fire as California’s largest of 2022.
The 30-square-mile Oak Fire was 67% contained as of Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Contributing: David Benda, Redding Record Searchlight