SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) — The explosive McKinney Fire that ignited Friday in Siskiyou County near the California-Oregon border has now claimed the lives of two people, officials said on Monday morning.
It is currently the largest wildfire to burn in the state this year burning more than 55,000 acres and is currently 0% contained.
VIDEO: Massive McKinney Fire burning near CA border burns home, threatens thousands of others
Officials say more than 100 buildings have already been destroyed.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect for Siskiyou and Modoc counties from noon to 11p.m. on Monday, CAL FIRE said. It warns of “forecasted abundant lightning on dry fuels” and ‘”lightning on critically dry vegetation may result in numerous new fire starts.”
McKinney’s explosive growth forced crews to shift from trying to control the perimeter of the blaze to trying to protect homes and critical infrastructure like water tanks and power lines, and assist in evacuations in California’s northernmost county of Siskiyou.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but Monday afternoon, officials with the U.S. Forest Service said in a Facebook post that it’s clear that this fire was not started by lightning.
CAL FIRE says overnight weather helped tame down some of the fire’s spread but vegetation in the area is extremely dry.
“I feel really blessed that we had some recent rains and I can guarantee you that we’re going to take advantage of that opportunity to try and keep this fire as small as we possibly can,” said Phil Enzo, CAL FIRE Siskiyou Unit Chief.
Crews continue to strategize on how to best utilize resources, a big focus is the City of Yreka.
Just east of that area, Sharon Trentino and Dwain Moore own a sprawling ranch.
The fire has brought in a thick cloud of smoke and haze that’s blocking what are typically picturesque views.
The husband and wife moved to their ranch from the Bay Area more than a year ago.
After years of seeing the damage wildfires can do, they say they chose their new home carefully.
“I love this house because I love this house,” Trentino said, “But it also is cement fiberboard composite shingle roof, not a lot of a lot of big trees right around me. So that I have a defensible space.”
Still, they and their neighbors are preparing to evacuate with their important items packed up in an RV.
“We’re going to try really hard not to go because we can stay in the middle of a big gravel pit and hopefully that won’t burn,” Trentino said.
As the work continues to fight this extreme fire, Trentino and Moore say they’re doing all they can to stay out of the smoke and keep up their hope.
Grateful for the people working around the clock to protect their community.
Highway 96 also remains closed to drivers in the area as crews work to get a handle on this fire.
Thousands of people have been forced to flee from their homes with unpredictable winds making this a challenge for firefighters.
Several hikers had to be rescued from the famous Pacific Crest Trail.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Saturday as the fire intensified. The proclamation allows Newsom more flexibility to make emergency response and recovery effort decisions and access federal aid.
It also allows “firefighting resources from other states to assist California crews in battling the fires,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
A significant build-up of vegetation was fueling the McKinney fire, said Tom Stokesberry, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service for the region.
“It’s a very dangerous fire – the geography there is steep and rugged, and this particular area hasn’t burned in a while,” he said.
“Oh my God, look at that burn,” said Tor Mason as he captured video of the fire Friday while frantically searching for friends. “It was terrible, just terrible… he had minutes to get out of there the fire just engulfed us.”
Whipping winds are sending flames ripping through Klamath National Forest and beyond – forcing more than 2,000 people from their homes. Mason later learned his burned to the ground.
“The fire was in your face,” said Mason. “I got burned a little on my face it was so intense. I was just scared.”
Meanwhile, just east of Yreka, Sharon Trentino and Dwain Moore are on evacuation alert.
“It’s still 11 miles away from us, but they’re worried that if Yreka catches on fire or anything, then the embers coming up from the fire and stir the pasture around,” said Trentino, who made the move to the Bay Area about a year ago. She’s now hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.
Tara Campbell: “So you do have your RV packed in case you have to leave?”
Dwain Moore: “Yeah, we got it all totally set up yesterday.
Sharon: “And we filled up all the gas tanks.”
Dwain: “All the fuel tanks are full, we’ve filled every water tank we own in case we lose power.”
Their typical view of Mt. Shasta is swallowed by smoke filled skies. “It’s raining ash. It looks like it’s snowing sometimes out here,” said Trentino.
Low visibility is adding to an already challenging battle as crews work around the clock.
“We all know the Klamath National Forest is a big and beautiful forest, but it also has some steep and rugged terrain, that coupled with the high temperatures, low humidity, they all come into play and make it a very extreme fire danger situation right now,” said Tom Stocksberry, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service.
The situation is also tough to predict with 0% of the fire contained.
“Evacuation orders are constantly changing,” said Stocksberry. “This is an evolving incident, the fire activity we have right now is extreme and the firefighters are doing their best right now to with point protection, structure defense and of course having a full suppression effort.”
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Kathryn Dybdahl is a hiker from San Francisco who sent photos from Etna, California. She says she is stranded with a group of around 100 hikers trying to get a ride to Oregon. For more information on possibly helping her or others, visit here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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