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Two dead in California’s largest wildfire this year

Date:

Firefighters faced “extremely dangerous” conditions Monday as they battled to save an 8,000-person community, with lightning strikes threatening to exacerbate a blaze that has already killed at least two people and has become California’s largest fire of the year.

Hundreds of personnel were involved in the fight against the fast-moving McKinney Fire, which has ravaged more than 55,000 acres (22,000 hectares) near the Oregon border, displacing thousands.

 

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a warning due to the threat of dry lightning — powerful electrical strikes that occur in the absence of much-needed rain.

 

“These conditions can be extremely dangerous for firefighters,” said CalFire, “because winds can be erratic and extremely strong, causing fire to spread in any direction.”

California, as well as much of the western United States, is experiencing the worst drought in over 1,000 years.

 

Drought, exacerbated by man-made climate change, has left the countryside parched and extremely vulnerable to naturally occurring wildfires, making the blazes hotter, faster, and more destructive.

 

The McKinney Fire claimed its first human lives on Sunday, with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office reporting that firefighters discovered two people dead inside a burned-out car in the driveway of a home in Klamath River.

 

Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said the couple was likely caught in the fast-moving blaze while attempting to flee.

 

Governor Gavin Newsom of California has declared a state of emergency in Siskiyou County, and over 2,000 people have been evacuated.

“I’m trying not to leave too soon because I’m helping my mother.” “She’s not in the best physical condition to get around,” Rafael Franco, a mandatory evacuation area resident, told AFP.

 

“At the last minute, if I see the fire cross the ridge where we are, we’ll head out and grab what we can and get moving, hoping for the best.”

 

Marjie Lawrence, who fled Klamath River on Friday night, said she returned to get some belongings in case the fire spread to her house.

 

“We’re taking things in case the house burns down, things we want, but not too many,” she explained.

 

A difficult firefight

A heat wave with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), tinder-dry terrain, and thunderstorms with strong winds are complicating firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire.

 

The Klamath National Forest service said in a statement that “fire growth is expected to spread in all directions.”

 

“Thunderstorms and lightning are expected. Near thunderstorm cells, gusty outflow winds of 30 to 50 mph (50 to 80 kph) are possible.”

 

According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, the fire has destroyed more than 100 structures in the area surrounding Yreka, including homes, a grocery store, and a community center, but it has not yet encroached on the town of about 7,800 people.

 

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