McKinney Fire containment grows to 75%; many evacuation orders, warnings lowered

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A U.S. Forest Service crew makes their morning plans during the McKinney Fire along Highway 96 in Klamath River on Sunday, July 31, 2022.
A U.S. Forest Service crew makes their morning plans during the McKinney Fire along Highway 96 in Klamath River on Sunday, July 31, 2022.

Firefighters made progress on two blazes burning in the North State on Wednesday.

Containment grew to 75% on the 60,389-acre McKinney Fire, burning in the Klamath National Forest. That's up from 60% Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire didn't grow in size on Wednesday.

The combined 7,886-acre Yeti and Alex fires also didn't grow, and is 78% contained, according to the Klamath National Forest.

The Six Rivers Lightning Complex grew to 11,618 acres on Wednesday, up from 10,781 acres Wednesday morning, according to Six Rivers National Forest. It remains uncontained.

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Firefighters have increased containment of the McKinney Fire to 60%, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday, as many evacuation orders and warnings have been downgraded on the east and west edges of the blaze.

The containment is up from 55% on Tuesday while the blaze is at 60,389 acres.

A spot fire broke out Tuesday night north of Klamath River, but crews were able to keep it to about 1 acre, fire officials said.

By Wednesday morning firefighters had both a hand line and a hose lay around it.

Crews are working on mop up as aircraft assist.

“Throughout the rest of the fire, lines held overnight with crews patrolling and looking for heat sources,” officials said Wednesday.

To illustrate Northern California’s severe drought, fire behavior analyst Dennis Burns reported what he saw while on patrol Tuesday.

“(Burns saw) an oak tree's leaves already changing color - with the fall still five weeks away, this is an indicator of severe drought,” officials said.

Highway 96 remains closed from Highway 263 to Horse Creek through the fire area.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office has reduced evacuation orders and warnings in many areas as firefighters get an upper hand on the blaze, although other restrictions remain in place.

A number of fire zones were downgraded from evacuation orders to warnings on Tuesday. Residents were allowed to return home in five Yreka zones and six Siskiyou zones.

Those zones are:

  • Yreka zones: YRE-3612D, 3615A, 3618A, 3621A, and 3634C.

  • Siskiyou zones: SIS-2004B, 2007B, 3505A, 3603B, 3606, and 3609A.

For the latest status on evacuations, go to community.zonehaven.com.

In addition, evacuation warnings have been lifted for these zones:

  • Yreka zones: YRE-3404, 3508, 3514, 3517, 3612A, 3618B, 3621D, and 3624B.

  • Siskiyou zones: SIS-1233A, 2001, 2004A, 2007A, 3511 3603A, and 3609B.

Four people have died in the fire, including Klamath National Forest Lookout Kathy Shoopman. The sheriff's office says its investigators are working to identify the other three.

"Sheriff’s office investigators are still working to determine if there are additional fatalities, and we are working to positively identify the fire victims using DNA analysis," the sheriff's office said.

The Six Rivers Lightning Complex is comprised of five active fires in Trinity and Humboldt counties in the Six Rivers National Forest.
The Six Rivers Lightning Complex is comprised of five active fires in Trinity and Humboldt counties in the Six Rivers National Forest.

Six Rivers Lightning Complex

The five fires in the Six Rivers Lightning Complex burning in Trinity and Humboldt counties remained 0% contained as of Wednesday.

The total size of the combined lightning-caused fires was 10,781 acres.

"Resources are in place around the fire areas laying hose, prepping in anticipation of fire movement and directly fighting the fire whenever possible," Six Rivers officials said.

Dozer drivers were carving fire breaks as water-dropping helicopters assisted firefighters on the ground in areas where skies were clear enough from smoke.

The lightning complex began as 12 fires started by thunderstorms on Aug 5 and five of those fires remained active Wednesday.

U.S. Forest Service officials say "Helicopters have been a vital part of firefighting operations throughout the duration of the Yeti Fire."
U.S. Forest Service officials say "Helicopters have been a vital part of firefighting operations throughout the duration of the Yeti Fire."

Yeti and Alex fires

The U.S. Forest Service says crews "met no issues" while patrolling the Yeti Fire on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

The Yeti blaze was 78% contained Wednesday at 7,886 acres. It's burning in the Klamath National Forest between Seiad and Happy Camp, south of Highway 96. 

"Firefighters are working to mop up what little heat remains near the line — primarily along the southern edge where Joe Miles Ridge Road was used as a fire line," officials said.

On the Alex Fire, closer to the Oregon border, crews mopped up and monitored threats to the fire line. The Alex Fire was 80% contained at 151 acres.

Mike Chapman is an award-winning reporter and photographer for the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif. His newspaper career spans Yreka and Eureka in Northern California and Bellingham, Wash. Support local journalism by subscribing today.

This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: McKinney Fire evacuations, warnings downgraded as containment rises