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McKinney Fire 80% contained

A member of a hand crew with Alpine Wildfire Services does mop-up work on the McKinney Fire near Mill Creek Road. The fire burning in Siskiyou County, California, is 80% contained. [Inciweb photo]
Assistance center available for impacted residents

As crews in Northern California strengthen lines on the McKinney Fire burning just south of the Oregon border, officials are getting a better understanding of the destruction left in the wake of the wildfire’s more than 60,000 acres.

The McKinney Fire is now 80% contained and held steady Thursday night at 60,389 acres, according to Friday updates from Klamath National Forest and Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit.

Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services has confirmed 185 structures were destroyed in the blaze, including 118 homes, since it broke out the afternoon of July 29.

A local assistance center will open this coming week, with resources for those impacted by the fire available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 17 and 18, at College of the Siskiyous Rural Health Sciences Institute, 2001 Campus Drive, Yreka.

Four people have been killed by the fire, which was first spotted at 2:15 p.m. July 29 on the Oak Knoll Ranger District of Klamath National Forest. The cause is under investigation.

The fire wasn’t expected to grow Friday, said Dennis Burns, fire behavior analyst with California Interagency Incident Management Team 2 in a Friday morning update. That’s due in part to calmer winds and lower temperatures, and relative humidity ranging from 13% to 20%.

Some 2,459 personnel are working the fire, according to the Forest Service.

Crews are aggressively mopping up the fire, Burns said. Although the fire isn’t producing much smoke, there’s still “significant heat” coming from the interior of the blaze.

“Think of it like a barbecue, a pit full of coals. It doesn’t produce a lot of smoke, but there’s a lot of heat,” Burns said. “The concern is that we get gusty winds; it picks up those embers — or a fire whirl or a dust devil picks up those embers and carries them across the lines.

“Crews are on a search-and-destroy mission to try and find those,” he said.

Crews use infrared to identify and mark hot spots, but the ones deep inside uncontained portions of the fire zone remain a challenge because it’s not yet safe to send firefighters inside.

Fire officials updated their footprint for the nearby George Fire, which broke out Thursday afternoon southwest of the McKinney Fire, to 14 acres.

A portion of Highway 96 reopened Thursday to people who live in the area between Beaver Creek and Kohl Creek, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. Motorists are advised to check CalTrans for the latest road conditions and closures at roads.dot.ca.gov.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.