Two people in the McKinney Fire’s path were found dead as California’s largest wildfire of 2022 scorched more than 50,000 acres in Klamath National Forest over the weekend, a sheriff’s office said Monday.
Fire personnel found two bodies inside a burned vehicle parked in a residential driveway west of the Klamath River community Sunday morning, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office reported. The people were not identified.
The uncontrolled McKinney Fire in Northern California grew to 86 square miles Sunday night, according to U.S. Forest Service’s Klamath National Forest division.
The densely forested region has experienced a long-term severe drought, according to AccuWeather.
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Over 2,000 people were forced from their homes as the growing wildfire raged west of Yreka City, California, located about 22 miles south of the California-Oregon border.
A heavy smoke inversion — when smoke hangs low to the ground — over the McKinney Fire helped limit the fire’s growth Sunday but also kept aircraft mostly grounded, according to the Forest Service.
The few brief showers that may appear over the fire area Monday may not be enough to assist in firefighting efforts, said AccuWeather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham.
“Because of how dry the entire area is, they need a bigger push of moisture to really be able to put a damper on the fire,” Buckingham told USA TODAY. Winds are expected to pick up later Monday afternoon into the evening, he said.
The well-above-average temperatures of the past week, climbing into record-challenging triple digits for many of the region’s lower valleys, have only worsened the dry environment, according to Buckingham.
“Over the next few days, there is a kind of a westward push of monsoon moisture into California, but unfortunately, they reside along the fringes of that moisture,” Buckingham said.
Any afternoon thunderstorm activity this week could feature dry lightning strikes that can quickly spark additional fires, he said.
Crews are still investigating the cause of the 0%-contained McKinney Fire, which ignited July 29 and quickly surpassed the Oak Fire as California’s largest of 2022.
The 30-square-mile Oak Fire was 67% contained as of Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.