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New evacuations ordered for McKinney Fire

Hot, unstable weather ahead as firefighters race to fill remaining holes in their lines to prevent the fire from getting away
A K-MAX helicopter picks up water Friday from the Klamath River along Highway 96 to cool hot spots within the Yeti Fire. [Klamath National Forest photo]

New evacuation warnings were issued Saturday afternoon in Siskiyou County due to red flag warnings over the next 48 hours in the area of the 60,000-acre McKinney Fire.

“An evacuation warning means there is a potential threat to life and/or property. Those who require additional time to evacuate, and those with pets and livestock should leave now,” said a post from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Saturday afternoon.

The post said red flag conditions over the next two days could fuel growth on the northeast end of the McKinney Fire, an area of the fire that officials said in a Saturday morning briefing they were concerned about.

“The northeast corner of the fire ... is the only area where we still have some open line,” said Dennis Burns, California Interagency Incident Management Team fire behavior analyst.

“It’s super steep ground; not able to get mechanical equipment in there to construct lines, so it’s all a hand crew show in there. This is our only piece where (the fire) could really come out and bite us,” he said.

“Sunday-Monday this week we have very unstable conditions in the atmosphere, very hot dry; very similar to when this fire started. If the fire gets established ... in these continuous fuels, we could see what we call ‘plume-dominated fire behavior.’

“We are trying to eliminate that potential anywhere near our lines, because if we build up a plume, it could spot over our lines, and any fire over the lines would be very resistant to control,” Burns said.

The new evacuation warnings are for areas north of California Highway 96, south of Ccc Road, east of Dutch Creek Road, and west of Ditch Creek Road. The area is east of Gottsville and north of Highway 96 in the Little Cottonwood and Cottonwood Peak area.

To see maps of the expanded evacuation zone, check the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Temperatures in the fire zone Saturday were in the low 100s in lower elevations and high 80s in higher elevations, with winds from the west and northwest, and gusts up to 15-20 mph.

Sunday is expected to be hot and mostly sunny, with a chance of a thunderstorm.

Emergency services officials reported that so far 132 structures in the fire zone have been destroyed, including 87 homes, with the rest being garages, outbuildings and commercial structures. Four structures had partial damage. Officials said their damage assessment is about 50% complete, with 274 structures inspected so far, meaning 134 structures they have looked at in the fire zone were not damaged.

Four people have been killed in the fire, but police have not yet identified any of the victims. The cause of the McKinney Fire remains unknown.

The fire was reported Saturday morning at 60,044 acres, with 30% containment, up from 59,636 acres reported Friday morning.

The lightning-sparked Yeti and Alex fires, burning a few miles west of the McKinney Fire near the town of Seiad Valley, were reported Saturday morning at a combined 7,721 acres. The Alex Fire was reported as 20% contained, with zero percent containment on the Yeti Fire.

Total personnel on the Yeti and Alex fires is 1,106. Officials said 336 structures remain threatened by the fires, but so far none have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported.

On the McKinney Fire, 2,783 personnel were reported.

A community meeting for the Yeti and Alex fires will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Happy Camp High School gymnasium. A livestream of the meeting can be seen at Facebook.com/KlamathNF

Multiple Evacuation orders and warnings remain in effect. For current updates on evacuations, visit www.facebook.com/SiskiyouCountySheriff and www.facebook.com/SiskiyouCountyOES

Additional evacuation information and a map can be found on the Zonehaven site at: https://community.zonehaven.com/

A shelter has been established at Karuk Wellness Center at 1403 Kahtishraam, Yreka, CA, 96097.

Highway 96 remains closed through the fire area.

The Pacific Crest Trail is closed between Etna Summit and Mount Ashland, a distance of 110 miles.

Fire restrictions are in effect on the Klamath National Forest. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/klamath/alerts-notices/

Reach Mail Tribune editor David Smigelski at 541-776-4484 or dsmigelski@rosebudmedia.com, or reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com.