McKinney Fire Updates: Deadly Blaze Threatens 4,900 Structures

Live Updates
  • Fire crews are battling California's largest wildfire so far this year.
  • The McKinney Fire has burned over 55,000 acres in Siskiyou County, near the California-Oregon border, since starting on Friday.
  • At least two people have died in the fire and nearly 5,000 structures are threatened as of Monday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Thousands have been forced to evacuate and Highway 96 remains closed.
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency on Saturday to help bring more aid to fight the massive blaze.
  • The McKinney Fire remains zero percent contained, according to CalFire.

The live updates for this blog have ended.

McKinney Fire
A firetruck drives along California Highway 96 as the McKinney Fire burns in Klamath National Forest, Calif., Saturday, July 30, 2022. Noah Berger/AP Photo

Fire Leaves Families, Animals Displaced

The McKinney Fire has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

Some residents who were forced to evacuate are currently staying at a Red Cross shelter in Weed, California.

Inside Fire Shelter
Family in Shelter

The fire continues to burn throughout the area, destroying homes, buildings and displacing many animals.

There has been widespread destruction and damage as the fire has torched through 55,000 acres.

Burned Debris
Deer in Fire
Bird in Fire
Kitten in Fire

Vice President Kamala Harris mentioned the fire when talking about the impacts of climate change in Miami, Florida on Monday.

"Climate change has become a climate crisis, and a threat has now become a reality," she said.

After talking about the deadly floods in Kentucky and Missouri, she mentioned the 2.5 million acres wildfires burned last year in her home state of California.

"Over the past few days in California, the McKinney fire has left two dead and forced thousands in California to evacuate their homes," she said. "It has been devastating, what we are witnessing, to so many families and so many communities."

Community Meeting Tonight

Fire officials will provide the latest update on the McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County during a community meeting early Monday evening.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. PST at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds Livestock Arena. You can watch live on the Klamath National Forest's Facebook page.

Crews Prioritize Yreka, Fort Jones Today

The U.S. National Forest Service - Klamath National Forest shared an update on the McKinney Fire Monday.

Fire Behavior Analyst Dennis Burns said that light rain and cloud cover over the fire could be advantageous for firefighters.

The first priority for fire crews today is the east side of the fire. Burns said crews will focus on protecting the city of Yreka. The second priority is the south of the fire and protecting the area in and around Fort Jones, about 12 miles south of where the fire currently is.

The east side of the fire is moving in a backing alignment, meaning that it is moving downhill. Burns said he expects this to continue. Crews are going "direct" on the fire, meaning they are in direct contact with the flames on the fire's edge.

Crews are taking advantage of road systems around the fire and the current weather. Burns said the fire "squatted down" from the clouds so crews do not expect any extreme behavior from the fire today. But if thunderstorms and strong winds come, Burns said crew could see some "erratic" behavior.

U.S. Forest Service Rules Out Lightning as Cause

While the cause of the McKinney Fire remains under investigation, it's "clear" the cause was not lightning, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) said Monday.

"A USFS specialized regional team is currently in place investigating the fire's cause and will be actively working to identify what was responsible," the USFS said in Facebook post Monday. "Though the cause is still under investigation, it is clear this fire was not caused by lightning."

The fast-moving fire, driven by "extreme temperatures" and "unpredictable winds," has burned more than 55,000 acres since starting Friday in Siskiyou County, USFS reports.

"One of our firefighters at Oak Knoll reported the temperature as 102 at 3 a.m.," the USFS post reads.

As of Monday afternoon, the service says "numerous" homes have been destroyed.

"In the first hours, we know we lost numerous structures in and around the community of Klamath River," USFS said. "We know that many homes burned to the ground, a tragic loss that compounds the loss of homes and property in catastrophic fires over the past few years."

McKinney Fire
The ruins of the Oak Mobile Park are seen at the McKinney Fire in the Klamath National Forest northwest of Yreka, California, on July 31, 2022. DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

Puppy Found Near Burned Home

A small puppy was found among the burned debris from the McKinney Fire near the Klamath River in Siskiyou County.

AIO Filmz photographer Jonathan Rivas recorded a video of a black and white puppy running towards him from the leftover damage from the flames. The dog appeared happy to see someone after wandering around alone.

Rivas said the puppy was "standing over a home that had been destroyed by the fire" when it ran up to him while he was filming.

He comforted the dog, gave it water and brought the dog to the Rescue Ranch adaption center in Yreka, California.

Crews Battle Several Fires in Siskiyou County

Several wildfires are burning in Siskiyou County right now as crews continue battling the massive McKinney Fire. The latest information from CalFire for some of the incidents can be found below.

McKinney Fire

  • 55,493 acres, 0% contained
  • This fire started Friday afternoon near Hwy 96 and McKinney Creed Road, southwest of Klamath River.
  • Cause: Under investigation

China 2 Fire

  • 1,989 acres, 0% contained
  • Where: West of Seiad Valley and south of Highway 96
  • Cause: Lightning

Kelsey Fire

  • At last report, this fire has burned 75 acres
  • This fire started Saturday night on Buker and Punkin Roads, Southwest of Scott Bar
  • Cause: Under investigation

"The Kelsey Creek Fire, just south of Kelsey Creek TH, is continuing to move toward cabins in the area," the Klamath National Forest tweeted Sunday.

The latest evacuation information for this fire can be found here.

Meamber Fire:

  • 40 acres, 5% contained
  • This fire started Sunday evening on Meamber Creek and Scott River Roads, Northwest of Fort Jones
  • Cause: Under investigation

Shackleford Fire:

  • 31 acres, 20% contained
  • This fire started Saturday evening on Shackleford Road and Big Meadows Creek, West of Fort Jones.
  • Cause: Under investigation
Northern California fires
A map depicting various wildfires in Northern California. CAL FIRE

Monday morning, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reported the following:

"There have been numerous lightning strikes in the area in the last 48 hours, and at least 12 holdover fires have been detected on the Klamath National Forest, in addition to the ones listed above [McKinney, China 2, Alex Fires]," a USFS update says. "They range in size from less than 1/10th acre to several acres. All are being fully suppressed."

Oregon Lawmaker Evacuated While Camping

An Oregon lawmaker had to escape the McKinney Fire burning in Northern California.

Democratic state representative Dacia Grayber and her husband were backcountry camping near Mount Ashland, on the California-Oregon border, over the weekend.

Grayber said they woke up in the middle of the night to strong winds, lightning and ash.

"Kind of looked at each other and said, 'do we wait this out? No, no, we got to get out of here.' So that is what we did," Grayber told KGW.

Even though she was eight to ten miles away from the flames, Grayber said she and her husband were still impacted by the smoke blowing over the ridge.

"It was just the ash and the wind were so intense and I can't even imagine what it was like for the firefighters and the people being evacuated," she said.

Grayber and her husband are both firefighters. She said it was "surreal" to "be on the other side of things."

"In 22+ [years] of fire, I've never experienced anything like this fire behavior at night," she said in a tweet. "It felt absolutely surreal and not just a little apocalyptic."

With over 50 years of experience between the two of them, Grayber said she and her husband have "never, ever, seen nighttime fire behavior like this."

"My heart breaks for the people there," she tweeted. "We are so fortunate to have a home to come home to."

NOAA Shares Satellite Images of Fire

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shared satellite images of the McKinney Fire Monday.

NOAA said the fire has shown "extreme behavior" by producing pyrocumulonimbus clouds; large, clouds created by intense heat, like from a wildfire.

A pyrocumulonimbus forms if there is enough moisture and atmospheric instability over the intense heat source, according to the National Weather Service. While uncommon, these clouds can grown large enough to produce lightning and some light precipitation.

Pyrocumulonimbus clouds can also be the cause of aerosol pollutants trapped in the stratosphere.

Over 4,900 Structures Threatened

More than 4,900 structures are threatened as the McKinney and China 2 Fires continue burning in Siskiyou County, according to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

The USFS now lists the number of structures damaged or destroyed by the wildfires as "unknown."

"While structure damage has been observed, numbers and locations have not yet been confirmed," a Monday morning USFS update says. "Assessments will begin when it is safe to access the fire area."

McKinney Fire
Rubble from a building sits in an area scorched by the McKinney Fire in Klamath National Forest, Calif., on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Noah Berger/AP Photo

The China 2 Fire, burning near Seiad, has burned nearly 2,000 acres as of late Monday morning. The wildfire was caused by lightning, USFS has determined. Both the China 2 and McKinney Fire remain at zero percent containment.

Overnight rain slowed the growth of the McKinney Fire, USFS reports.

"The fire continues to actively back toward structures in the Walker Creek area, and night crews were on hand to do structure protection there," the fire service said Monday.

High humidity also slowed growth of the China 2 Fire overnight.

"While last night's weather mitigated fire spread, vegetation in the area is extremely dry and the continued threat of thunderstorms and the associated strong, erratic winds could result in increased fire behavior," USFS said.

Areas Evacuated Under 'Immediate Threat to Life'

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in the northern part of Siskiyou County due to the McKinney Fire.

So far, only one shelter has been established at the Weed Community Center in Weed, California.

The areas north and south of Highway 96 and the Klamath River are under an evacuation order.

The fire presents an "immediate threat to life" and the area is "lawfully closed to public access," according to Zonehave AWARE.

60 Hikers Evacuated on Pacific Crest Trail

Dozens of hikers were rescued as the McKinney Fire quickly spread over the weekend in northern Siskiyou County.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Oregon helped 60 people off of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on the California side of the Red Buttes Wilderness.

There are no evacuation orders issued for Jackson County, but officials said smoke and ash from the McKinney Fire are impacting the area. The area does remain under watch for fire risk.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team is working with Siskiyou County Sheriff Search and Rescue on evacuations.

Several parts of the PCT have been closed due to several wildfires in the area.

Local search and rescue teams are looking through evacuation zones for hikers and campers. A spokesperson for the fire incident response team told FOX Weather that there is likely little to no cell service on parts of the trail. Hikers, therefore, may not know how close they are to the fire.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

Shelter Takes in Over 130 Dogs

A ranch in Yreka, California has taken in more than 130 dogs amid the growing McKinney fire.

Rescue Ranch has taken in 139 dogs in less than 48 hours, according to a Facebook post.

"As usual, the extended Rescue Ranch community has been amazingly supportive," the Ranch said in a post. "We just want to say how grateful we are for all of the in-kind and online donations we have received. We do it for the dogs, together!"

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

Two Arrested for Burglary In Evacuation Zone

Two people were arrested within the McKinney Fire evacuation zone Monday morning, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office said.

One suspect was booked for possession of burglary tools and the other was booked for burglary within an evacuation zone.

"The Sheriff's Office along with our law enforcement partners will continue a heavy presence, patrolling and protecting life and property in the fire evacuation zone," the Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

Over 55,000 Acres Burned, No Containment

The McKinney Fire continues to grow and has already burned more than 55,000 acres as of Monday morning.

The fire has burned approximately 55,493 acres in Siskiyou, County over two days, according to an incident report from CalFire.

Fire crews have still not contained the fire as portions of Highway 96 remains closed.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Klamath National Forest Service said almost 650 personnel are currently working on the fire.

Two Found Dead Inside Burned Car

The McKinney Fire in California has become deadly.

Two people were found dead inside a burned car Sunday, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office.

The vehicle was located in a residential driveway along Doggett Creek Road, off of Highway 96, near the Klamath River community. The victims were not immediately identified.

"There will be no additional information pending positive identification and notifications to next-of-kin," the Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post.

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