YERECA, Calif. (AP) — Officials said two bodies were found inside a burned vehicle en route to the Northern California wildfires, one of several large fires burning in the U.S. West amid hot, dry, dreary conditions. is one.
The McKinney fire exploded in size more than 82 square miles (212 sq km) after erupting on Friday in a largely populated area in the Klamath National Forest south of the Oregon state line, reports Sunday night’s incident. This is the largest wildfire ever in California.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday that two bodies were found on Sunday inside a charred vehicle located in a residential driveway near the remote community of Klamath River, California. The victims could not be immediately identified.
Flames burned trees along State Route 96 and swept through the hills overlooking homes on Sunday. The fire cast a eerie, orange-brown hue, in a neighborhood where a brick chimney was littered with rubble and scorched vehicles. Employees on the ground worked to prevent the fire from spreading east to the city of Yereka, where 7,500 people lived.
A second, smaller fire to the west that was hit by dry lightning on Saturday threatened the small town of Cead. About 400 structures were at risk from two California fires. Officials are yet to confirm the extent of the damage, saying the assessment will begin when it is safe to reach the area.
Courtney Creder, a spokeswoman for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, said the third fire, which was at the southwest end of the McKinney blaze, prompted the evacuation of about 500 homes on Sunday. The office said the crew had been on the scene since late Saturday, but by the next morning it had “activated and escaped from its line of control.”
Many people in the sheriff’s office have been affected by evacuation orders because of the fire “and they are still showing up to work, with (a) very dedicated crew,” she said. On Friday, a deputy lost his childhood home in a fire, he said.
Forecasters said thunderstorms and new fires in dry fuel beds in northern California are expected beginning Monday.
In northwestern Montana, fires in grasslands near the town of Elmo had grown to about 17 square miles (44 sq km) on Sunday after moving into the woods. Crew worked along the edges of the fire, and were expected to continue making water and retardant drops from the aircraft to help slow the pace of the fire, said Sarah Rouse, a spokeswoman for the interagency team assigned to the fire. He said high temperatures and erratic winds are expected.
A section of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo was closed and drivers were asked to look for fire and emergency personnel. Rouse said visibility was poor in the area.
In Idaho, the Moose Fire in the Salmon-Forty National Forest has burned more than 75 square miles (196 sq km) of woodland near the town of Salmon. By Sunday it was 21%. Pila Malolo, the planning operations section chief on the fire, said in a Facebook video update that hot, dry conditions were expected to remain in place on Sunday. Officials said they expected the fire to grow in the steep, rough country on the south side of the fire.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the McKinney Fire intensified. The proclamation allows Newsom more flexibility to make emergency response and recovery effort decisions and access federal aid.
California law enforcement knocked on doors in the towns of Yereka and Fort Jones urging residents to get out and remove their animals safely on trailers. Automated calls were also being sent over land phone lines as were areas without cell phone service.
Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The Pacific Coast Trail Association urged hikers to head to the nearest town, while the U.S. Forest Service closed a 110-mile (177-km) section of the path from Etna Summit to Mount Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.
In Hawaii, the Maui County Emergency Management Agency said brush fires were 90% controlled, but a red flag warning was in effect for most of Sunday.
And in North Texas, firefighters continued in their effort to contain the 2-week-old, 10 1/2-square-mile (27 1/3-square-kilometer) Chalk Mountain Fire. The crew now report 83% containment of the fire that has destroyed 16 homes and damaged five others about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Fort Worth. No injuries have been reported.