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McKinney Fire reaches 90% containment

Mop-up continues throughout the perimeter of the fire with crews looking to ‘seek and destroy’ hot spots
Alpine Wildfire Services conduct mop-up on the McKinney Fire along Mill Creek Road. [Courtesy Klamath National Forest]

The McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County was 90% contained Saturday, but that “doesn’t mean the work is through,” said Dennis Burns, fire behavior analyst for California Interagency Incident Management Team II, during a fire briefing Saturday.

Standing before a map of the blaze, Burns pointed to a red segment on its western side that crews are still working to contain. Another incident team will start working the fire Sunday to “suppress and repair,” he said.

Kimberly Kaschalk, public information officer with Klamath National Forest, explained the red area on the map doesn’t mean that area of the fire is scorching; rather, it notes crews have a containment line around it as they continue to conduct “mop up.”

“They’re going into that area — boots on the ground — they’re looking for any hot spots, any snags, any burning stump; anything that could jeopardize the containment line and cause the fire to move beyond that and spread,” Kaschalk said in an interview.

“That takes time because it’s literally what we call ‘search and destroy’; they’re literally walking on the ground looking for these spots, and as they find them, they either extinguish them with water or chop up the wood — anything to put that fire out,” she added.

In his Saturday briefing, Burns said crews have been fighting the edges of the fire before working their way to its core, “opening up some of those roads so people can access their properties.”

Kaschalk said crews are “building a wall around the fire,” but there may still be flames in the interior.

“It’s going to smolder for months possibly, but the fire is not going to go anywhere; it is pretty much contained behind that fire line, Kaschalk said.

Weather on the fire Saturday was expected to be hot, dry and sunny, with temperatures in the low 90s, humidity around 13% to 20%, and winds from the east/northeast, with gusts up to 20 mph possible.

The McKinney Fire held Saturday at 60,392 acres, and 2,420 personnel were assigned to the blaze.

The Alex and Yeti fires burning west of the McKinney Fire are nearly fully contained.

The Yeti Fire, at 7,886 acres, was at 90% containment Saturday. Patrols are continuing, especially along Highway 96, as isolated heat sources (rolling logs, blowing debris) smolder and ignite, causing small uphill runs and visible smoke, according to an Inciweb update. This is likely to continue into the coming weeks, it said.

The 151-acre Alex Fire is 100% contained.

A local assistance center will open this week at College of the Siskiyous Rural Health Sciences Institute, 2001 Campus Drive, in Yreka, to serve residents impacted by the McKinney Fire. The center is a one-stop shop for recovery assistance. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 17-18.

Traffic on Highway 96 is limited, with piloted traffic between Beaver Creek to Kohl Creek through the fire area.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.