McKinney fire near Oregon border grows to more than 30,000 acres

·3 min read

Jul. 30—A wildfire that broke Friday afternoon in Northern California expanded to 18,000 acres overnight and roughly doubled in size early Saturday afternoon, prompting evacuation orders in Northern California, closing a 110-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail and is putting firefighters in Oregon on alert.

The McKinney fire, burning six miles west of Yreka, California, and roughly six miles south of the Oregon border, was first reported at 2:15 p.m. Friday afternoon on the Oak Knoll Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest.

The fire grew significantly overnight because of winds and late evening thunderstorms that kept the fire active through the night, leading to runs on the north and south sides of the fire. As of shortly before 9 a.m., the fire was estimated at 18,000 acres. It had ballooned to between 30,000 and 40,000 acres as of a 1:18 p.m. update from the Klamath National Forest.

Saturday is expected to be another day of "very active fire behavior," with very hot temperatures in the forecast and a red flag warning in effect for lighting, fire officials on Inciweb stated.

And in Southern Oregon, a red flag warning for abundant lightning on dry vegetation — expected to last between 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday — is temporarily closing Prescott Park in Medford.

Firefighters are focusing their efforts on point-protection and defending structures. A California Incident Management Team has arrived in Yreka, and will take control of the fire Sunday morning.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is making plans for fire-suppression efforts that may be necessary if the fire moves north and threatens Oregon residents or the forest, according to a morning update from the Forest Service.

As of midday Saturday, the Forest Service closed a 110-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mt. Ashland Campground to Etna Summit in Northern California because of the fire. Any hikers on the PCT within the area should evacuate to the nearest town.

Due to a red flag warning for lighting issued by the National Weather Service in Medford for Southern Oregon — issued when the agency identifies conditions promoting the rapid spread of fire such as gusty winds, low humidity or thunderstorms — the city of Medford closed the 1,700-acre Prescott Park to the public for the duration of the alert, which is expected to lift at 8 p.m.

Ahead of the red flag warning, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has ordered extra resources. Expected to arrive Saturday are nine type 6 fire engines, five type 3 engines, five type 2 initial attack crews, one type 3 dozer, and two type 2 crews.

Four small fires broke on Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District-protected lands Saturday morning, all of which were swiftly lined by the middle of the day and were in the midst of being mopped up. One fire about two miles north of the California border along Old Highway 99 South was caught at half an acre, and is 70% mopped up; and three fires northeast of Prospect were caught at smaller than half an acre and are about 30% mopped up. The cause of the four fires is under investigation.

Mop-up continues on a trio of small wildfires in the Sky Lakes Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou-National Forest's High Cascades Ranger District.

The Slide fire remains at 1-1/2 acres and is 50% contained. Crews including a type 2 initial attack crew, rappellers and the Galice Type 1 Wildland Fire Module are working to build out and strengthen the fire line through rough and rocky terrain, according to the Forest Service.

The Pond fire and the Wrangle fire each remain at a quarter-acre as crews continue mopping up the fires.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.