February 4, 2023

California’s biggest fire this year forces thousands to evacuate as it destroys homes and rips through the state’s arid terrain, whipped up by high winds and thunderstorms on Sunday.

The McKinney fire was completely unattended when it burned down in northern California’s Klamath National Forest, CalFire said, spreading over more than 51,000 acres near the city of Yreka.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday, saying the fire had “destroyed homes” and “threatened critical infrastructure” after breaking out on Friday.

The fire was “aggravated and spread by dry fuels, extreme drought, high temperatures, wind and thunderstorms,” ​​Newsom said in a statement.

More than 2,000 residents were under evacuation orders and about 200 under evacuation warnings, according to the California Office of Emergency Services (OES), mostly in Siskiyou County.

“The surrounding areas should be ready to leave if necessary. Please do not hesitate to evacuate,” the Siskiyou County Sheriff tweeted.

Highway 96 and McKinney Creed Road southwest of the Klamath River were closed to the public, CalFire said.

Yreka resident Larry Castle told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that he and his wife had packed a few belongings and their three dogs to leave the area for the night, as other fires in recent years had taught that the situation was “very, could become very serious. “.

Nearly 650 people were working as of Sunday to put out the blaze, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group said.

Firefighters were dispatched from nearby Oregon to assist with containment efforts, the Oregon State Fire Chief said, as the Klamath National Forest is also affected by the Kelsey Creek Fire.

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CalFire said the cause of the fire is still “under investigation.”

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) said “a heavy smoke inversion” had helped limit the fire’s growth on Sunday, but also meant that firefighters’ planes were also “largely grounded.”

Firefighters were working over Fort Jones and west of Yreka “to cut off the fire’s progress,” according to the USFS.

The record-breaking fire started just days after the previous biggest fire of the year swept through central California.

The Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park broke out in mid-July and quickly spread, destroying 41 buildings and forcing thousands to evacuate.

Faced with a debilitating drought, California still has months of fire season ahead of it.

In recent years, California and other parts of the western United States have been ravaged by massive and fast-moving wildfires caused by a warming climate.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)