Raging forest fires in Northern California claimed two more lives as the death toll rose to four from what has become the state’s largest blaze brought on by blistering heat and bone-dry conditions, authorities said Tuesday.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff said two bodies were found in separate residences on Monday along Route 96, one of the only roads in and out of the area.
On Sunday, first responders found the first two bodies inside a burned-out vehicle inside a gated driveway of a home near the Klamath River. Flames overtook the vehicle before they could escape.
‘It’s really tragic when a fire gets up and moves this fast and basically takes out a community. And that’s what happened in the Klamath River area,’ Mike Lindbery, a spokesman with the fire’s incident management team, said Tuesday.
The McKinney Fire in Northern California has claimed four lives over five days as firefighter struggle to contain it
Officers with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s office carry away the remains of one of two people found burned to death in separate residences in the Klamath River area
Officials said that the devastating McKinney fire, the largest in the state, is zero percent contained
Authorities have not identified the dead, pending notification to their families.
About 2,500 people have had to evacuate the area and two million more are under red flag warnings of fire conditions across the states of California, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.
The McKinney Fire, as it is called, ripped through 88 square miles, fed by 50 mph winds, and is considered the largest of the state’s wildfires.
It’s is by no means the only one. There are 10 different fires burning in the area.
‘Klamath National Forest is a big and beautiful forest, but it also has some steep and rugged terrain. And with that, coupled with the high temperatures, low humidity, they all come into play and make it a very extreme fire danger situation right now,’ Tom Stokesberry of the US Forest Service told KTVL.
The roaring inferno threatening wildlife and homes in California has now become fatal – after four people have died
The threatening blaze is now engulfing 88 squared miles of dry tinderbox wildland in the area as firefighters work tirelessly to calm the inferno
Flames burn to the Klamath River during the McKinney Fire in the Klamath National Forest northwest of Yreka, California
The McKinney Fire burns near Yreka, California, as it ravaged 88 square miles of vegetation, destroying a dozen homes and forcing local residents to evacuate
The blaze, which started on July 29, was considered zero percent contained on Tuesday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsome declared a state of emergency on Monday, freeing up state and federal funds to help those affected by the blaze.
Cloudy weather and scattered rain continued to help firefighters Tuesday as bulldozers managed to ring the small and scenic tourism destination city of Yreka, with firebreaks. Crews carving other firebreaks in steep, rugged terrain also made progress, fire officials said.
James ‘Mac’ Benton was forced to evacuate in his RV from his Klamath River area home on Friday.
He got one of his dogs, Moon Bear, in the vehicle, but had to leave one of his dogs – his three-month-old pit bull puppy Patches behind, along with another dog and his cat, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Early Saturday, when freelance videographer, Jonathan Rivas, was documenting the devastation to the area, Patches came sheepishly out of the smoldering debris, wagging his tail.
He took the dog to Rescue Ranch, a no-kill shelter nearby that has taken in 165 dogs orphaned by the fire, where Benton was reunited with the pooch.
‘He’s very resourceful,’ Benton told the Bee. ‘He’s a very smart dog.’
Patches, a three-month-old pit bull puppy was rescued by a freelance videographer on Saturday
Early Saturday, when freelance videographer, Jonathan Rivas, was documenting the devastation to the area, Patches came sheepishly out of the smoldering debris, wagging his tail
He hasn’t heard about his other pets, but he’s hoping they’ll survive, according to a Facebook post from Rescue Ranch.
The blaze was holding about 4 miles from downtown Yreka, a population of about 7,500.
‘There’s still a lot of people in town, people who refused to leave,’ he said. ‘A lot of people who don’t have vehicles and can’t go. It’s really sad.’
Thom has lived in Yreka all his life but said it was the first time he had been threatened by a wildfire.
‘I never thought it would ever happen,’ he said. ‘I thought, ‘We’re invincible.’ … This is making a liar out of me.’
Firefighters say they are doing their best to douse the blaze.
‘We’ve got the weather,’ said Todd Mack, an incident fire commander with the U.S. Forest Service. ‘We’ve got the horsepower. And we’re getting after it.’
The charred remains of a boat on a trailer are seen at the McKinney Fire in the Klamath National Forest northwest of Yreka, California
A dead fawn is seen after the McKinney Fire engulfed the area and caused thousands of people to flee their homes
But lightning over the weekend also sparked several smaller fires near the McKinney Fire. And despite the much-needed moisture, forests and fields in the region remained bone-dry.
Among those waiting out the fire at the shelter in Yreka on Monday was Paisley Bamberg, 33. She arrived a few months ago from West Columbia, South Carolina, and had been living in a motel with her six children, ranging in age from 15 to 1-year-old twins, when she was told to evacuate.
‘I started throwing everything on the top of my truck,’ but had to leave many things behind, she said.
Bamberg said she had just been hired at an Arby’s restaurant and wondered if it would survive the fire.
‘There might not be much there when we get back,’ she said. ‘I don’t know if I have a job. The kids were supposed to start school and I don’t know if the school is still standing.’
Bamberg added: ‘I’m trying to keep up my spirits. I have six little humans that are depending on me. I can’t break down or falter.’
Scientists have said climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The U.S. Forest Service shut down a 110-mile section of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California and southern Oregon. Authorities helped 60 hikers in that area evacuate on Saturday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon.