Under hot and dry conditions, crews make progress on McKinney Fire

·3 min read

Under crackling dry conditions and temperatures still reaching near 100 degrees in northern Siskiyou County, containment around the largest fire in California this year reached 40% Sunday.

At 60,271 acres, the McKinney Fire 15 miles west of Yreka grew only 127 acres from Saturday to Sunday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

During the same period, containment line around the fire increased from 30% to 40%.

While firefighters appear to be getting the upper hand on the McKinney Fire, several other fires continue to burn around the North State.

The largest of those were the Yeti and Alex fires west of the McKinney Fire. As of Sunday, those two fires were just over 8,000 acres and were 19% contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Five other fires, which made up the Six Rivers Lightning Complex, burned in the area of Willow Creek in eastern Humboldt County. Those fires had torched about 1,100 acres as of Sunday.

The four largest fires and fire complexes in the North State have cost federal and state agencies about $26.3 million in suppression costs, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The McKinney Fire alone has cost $21 million.

The McKinney Fire broke out July 29 near the community of Klamath River. Driven by strong winds that came up in the evening during the first day of the blaze, the fire destroyed an estimated 132 buildings, including 87 homes, and killed four people.

More: Flash flood during McKinney Fire kills thousands of Klamath River fish

A chimney stands at a home destroyed by the McKinney Fire on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in western Siskiyou County.
A chimney stands at a home destroyed by the McKinney Fire on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in western Siskiyou County.

Thunderstorms following the fire caused flash flooding in the area, choking streams with mud and debris and killing thousands of fish in an important salmon fishery.

Along with temperatures over 100 degrees, firefighters have contended with very dry conditions due to the third year of a drought.

The hot and dry conditions that make it easier for wildfires to start and spread are expected to continue throughout August and into September, according to the interagency fire center.

This image courtesy of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources shows dead fish at Seiad Creek, which is a small tributary of the Klamath River, near Happy Camp, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. The Karuk Tribe says flash flooding during a massive wildfire burning in a remote area just south of Oregon appears to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Klamath River fish. Scientists think debris may have flowed from the burned area to the river. It's still unclear how severe the die-off is.
This image courtesy of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources shows dead fish at Seiad Creek, which is a small tributary of the Klamath River, near Happy Camp, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. The Karuk Tribe says flash flooding during a massive wildfire burning in a remote area just south of Oregon appears to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Klamath River fish. Scientists think debris may have flowed from the burned area to the river. It's still unclear how severe the die-off is.

"Critical weather conditions with very hot temperatures and dry fuels continue in many states. Red flag warnings are in effect for parts of Oregon, Washington and northern California," the agency said in a report issued Sunday.

Update: Trinity sheriff issues evacuation order for 150-acre Campbell Fire outside Willow Creek

Across the country, 72 large fires and complexes of fires had burned 1.7 million acres in 15 states, NIFC said.

The National Drought Monitor continues to classify the North State, including Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties, in an extreme drought.

Even as the drought continues through its third year in California, there is some good news. The number of fires — and the amount of acres burned — is down significantly in the from 2021, according to Cal Fire.

By this time last year, there were 5,945 fires that burned 517,530 acres. This year, there have been 4,927 blazes that have burned 147,034 acres, Cal Fire reported.

More: Klamath River straddles heartbreak and hope after deadly McKinney Fire

Damon Arthur is the Record Searchlight’s resources and environment reporter. He is part of a team of journalists who investigate wrongdoing and find the unheard voices to tell the stories of the North State. He welcomes story tips at 530-338-8834 by email at damon.arthur@redding.com and on Twitter at @damonarthur_RS. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today!

This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Under hot, dry conditions, crews make progress on California's McKinney Fire