YREKA, California (AP) — At least two people have died from a raging California fire, among thousands that threatened thousands of homes Monday in the western U.S.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said two bodies were found inside a charred vehicle Sunday in the driveway of a home near the remote community of the Klamath River. The names of the victims and other details were not immediately released.
The McKinney Fire in Northern California near the state line with Oregon exploded to nearly 87 square miles (225 square kilometers) in size after breaking out Friday in the Klamath National Forest, fire officials said. This is California’s largest wildfire of the year to date, and officials have yet to determine the cause.
Fire officials said high winds from a thunderstorm ignited the several hundred-acre blaze into a large blaze while lightning sparked several smaller fires nearby, including one near Seiad Valley community.
On Monday, heavy rain helped calm the blaze, but it still threatens structures after burning more than 100 structures, from homes to greenhouses, fire police officials said.
About 2,500 people are still under evacuation orders.
“If you get an order, that means go. This fire behavior is, as you will hear, amazing. Don’t try to fight it. Don’t try to hang on,” Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services Director Bryan Schenone said at a community meeting Monday night.
Stormy and cloudy weather helped fire crews attack the blaze, and bulldozers managed to surround the town of Yreka, fire officials said.
As of Monday, the blaze was about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the town of about 7,500 people.
The son of Valerie Linfoot, a firefighter, called to tell her that their three-decade home on the Klamath River had burned. Linfoot said her husband worked as a US Forest Service firefighter for many years and the family did everything they could to prepare their home for the wildfire – including installing a roof. metal and trim trees and tall grass around the property.
“It’s as safe as we can make it,” Linfoot said, and it was very dry and too hot and the fire flared up very quickly. Gulf News Group. She said her neighbors have also lost their homes.
“It is a beautiful place. And from what I’ve seen, it’s just devastating. It was completely destroyed,” she told the news team.
In northwest Montana, winds picked up Monday afternoon over flames burning in woodland west of Flathead Lake, forcing fire managers to ground all planes and lead the Sheriff’s Office. Lake County began evacuating residents in the northeast corner of the fire.
Sara Rouse, a spokeswoman for the fire management team, said the fire was emitting a lot of smoke, causing visibility problems for the plane.
Fire officials said the fire started Friday afternoon near the town of Elmo on the Flathead Indian Reservation, which spans 20 square miles (52 square kilometers).
The Moose Fire in Idaho has burned more than 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) of the Salmon-Challis National Forest while threatening homes, mining and fisheries near the town of Salmon. It was 23% contained on Monday.
And a wildfire raging in northwestern Nebraska led to the evacuation and destroyed or damaged several homes near the small city of Gering. The Carter Canyon fire started Saturday when two separate fires merged. It was about 30% contained as of early Monday.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday, giving him more flexibility in making decisions about recovery efforts and emergency response and tapping into federal aid.
Climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make extreme weather and wildfires more frequent and destructive, scientists say.
The United States Forest Service has closed a 110-mile (177 km) stretch of the popular Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California and southern Oregon. Sixty hikers in that area were helped to evacuate Saturday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, which supported the effort.
Weber reports from Los Angeles. Associated Press correspondent Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana; Margery Beck of Omaha, Nebraska; and Keith Ridler of Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.