Evacuations in Yreka as the McKinney fire rages along the California-Oregon border

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A massive fire along the California-Oregon border has forced evacuations in Yreka as high temperatures and strong winds continue to fan the blaze. The McKinney fire in Siskiyou County has blackened 51,468 acres and is only 1% contained, according to the latest US Forest Service update Sunday morning.

“The Yerica Police Department has issued an evacuation order for the area west of Fairchild Street and Shasta Street to include Oakridge Mobile Estates,” Forest District announced Saturday night. “This area is being evacuated due to its proximity to the fire and the need for additional time necessary for this group of residents to evacuate safely. Residents in the evacuation order area must evacuate immediately.”

“An evacuation warning has been issued to all Yerica areas west of I-5. Residents in the evacuation warning area must prepare to evacuate and must be prepared if the area is changed to an order.”

Weather conditions are unfavorable for firefighting crews. On Sunday, they expect single-digit humidity, lightning, extreme temperatures, and gale-force winds, which “will continue to be the driver of extreme fire behavior.” The Forest Service expects that “structural defense operations will continue along the corridor of Highway 96 [and] Beaver Creek Community. Over the next day, they expect “fires to grow… to spread in all directions as a red flag warning of thunderstorms and lightning is in the forecast.” The fire may affect the Gotville area, Humbug Road on the east side. A move toward Scott Barr is expected while the Collins Baldy fire moves.”

Read also: Dozens of Pacific Crest Trail Rescued as McKinney Fire Threatens

An aerial view of the McKinney fire burning in Klamath National Forest in California on July 30, 2022.

An aerial view of the McKinney fire burning in Klamath National Forest in California on July 30, 2022.

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The McKinney fire broke out Friday in the Klamath National Forest, about 15 miles south of the Oregon border, sending a huge cloud of pyrocumulus and causing a wave of evacuations in small forest communities in the northern part of the Golden State. The US Forest Service said the 300-acre McKinney fire was reported Friday night without containment, exploded overnight, and reached 18,000 acres by Saturday morning.

“Because of choppy winds, fires were burning everywhere,” Caroline Quintanilla, US Forest Service information officer, told SFGATE on Saturday afternoon.

The US Forest Service said the fire started at 2:38 p.m. in the Oak Knoll Ranger area west of the Walker Creek Bridge on the south side of the Klamath River. Thunderstorms passed over the area Friday night and may have exacerbated the fires. “We were hit by 100 lightning bolts in western Siskiyou County last night,” said Brad Schaff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Services office in Medford, Oregon.

“It seems that the fire came first, certainly before the thunderstorms,” ​​Schaaf said. “It appears that there was a gust of wind from the fire that helped develop the thunderstorm. The first lightning strikes occurred after 7 pm.”

Schaaf said the fires put out a 39,000-foot cloud of pyrocumulus at 11:30 p.m. Friday. “It is unusual for a fire to put out a fire cloud of this size late at night because the fires usually settle down after sunset,” he said.

Pyrocumulus clouds, also known as fire clouds, form when air heats up and moves up, pushing smoke, ash, and steam with it. It is a sign that shooting activity on the ground is increasing.

The Siskiyou Office of Emergency Services said several roads were closed due to the fire, including Interstate 96, Scott River Road, Interstate 96 and Interstate 263.

Two other smaller fires were reported near the McKinney Fire, China Peak Fire and Evans Peak Fire. Klamath National Forest said at 11 a.m. Saturday that the China Fire had combined with the Evans Fire and was about 300 to 350 acres and 2 to 3 miles west of Siad Valley town.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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