Small Northern California town left in ruins after massive McKinney Fire damages area

Residents of Klamath River, a small Northern California town, are reeling from the devastating McKinney Fire that has nearly wiped out their community.

The Klamath River community hall was known to community members as a one-stop shop for weddings, Christmas pageants, fundraisers and funerals, Klamath River Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Janet Jones told the Register-Guard of Oregon, part of the USA TODAY Network.

The fire department also trained there, Jones said.

There’s no sign of the building’s red walls or the American flag painted on its roof, video from the Register-Guard shows. The home of bingo nights and Taco Tuesdays had burned to the ground. The community center’s sign, seemingly unscathed by the fire, was all that remained.

The out-of-control McKinney Fire — California’s largest of 2022 —  grew to nearly 90 square miles as of Wednesday morning. The fire first ignited southwest of Klamath River in the Klamath National Forest on Friday.

UTAH WILDFIRE: Started by man who said he was trying to burn a spider, officials say

LAST YEAR'S NUMBERS OUTPACED: Thirteenth child of 2022 dies in hot car

Four people have died, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office. Thousands of people have evacuated. It's not clear what caused the fire, but the Klamath National Forest division of the U.S. Forest Service said on Facebook earlier in the week it was "clear" it was not sparked by lightning.

Roger Derry, 80, and his son have lived together in the tiny scenic hamlet of Klamath River for more than 40 years. They know most of the town's 200 or so residents.

They're one of the few families left after the McKinney Fire raged through the riverside town’s modest homes and stores.

A man runs to a truck as the McKinney fire burns in Klamath National Forest, Calif., on Saturday, July 30, 2022.
A man runs to a truck as the McKinney fire burns in Klamath National Forest, Calif., on Saturday, July 30, 2022.

“It’s very sad. It’s very disheartening,” Derry said. “Some of our oldest homes, 100-year-old homes, are gone. It’s a small community. Good people, good folks, for the most part, live here and in time will rebuild. But it’s going to take some time now.”

Jones told the Register-Guard that somewhere between 50 to 100 homes were destroyed in the McKinney Fire.

Smoke and ash from the fire has elevated the Air Quality Index near Klamath River to unhealthy levels, according to AirNow.

Cloudy, cool weather mitigated fire activity Tuesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Smaller wildfires that sparked after the McKinney Fire continue to burn in Siskiyou County. The 31-acre Shackleford Fire that erupted Saturday is 31% contained as of Wednesday, Cal Fire reported.

Firefighters have contained 41% of the nearby Meamber Fire, which has scorched 63 acres since starting Sunday.

The Yeti and Alex Fires burning west of the McKinney Fire are both 0% contained over a combined 4.9 square miles, according to InciWeb. Warmer, drier conditions could stoke the Yeti Fire’s flames Wednesday, authorities said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Northern California fires: McKinney Fire devastates Klamath River