2 found dead in car as California wildfire burns out of control | CBC News

2 found dead in car as California wildfire burns out of control | CBC News

Two bodies were found inside a burned-out car in the path of a huge wildfire raging near California’s border with Oregon, authorities said on Monday, as heavy smoke limited efforts to deploy aircraft to contain the blaze over the weekend.

Erratic storms were expected to move through Northern California again on Monday with lightning that threatened to spark new fires in bone-dry vegetation, forecasters said. A day earlier, thunderstorms caused Southern California flash flooding that damaged roads in Death Valley National Park.

Since it broke out on Friday, the fast-moving McKinney Fire has forced at least 2,000 residents to evacuate while destroying homes and critical infrastructure, mostly in Siskiyou County, home to Klamath National Forest, according to a release from Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday.

WATCH | California wildfires rage: 

Firefighters continue to battle California blazes

The fast-growing McKinney Fire in Northern California has burned more than 30,000 acres in the Klamath National Forest near the state’s border with Oregon. The situation is further complicated by thunderstorms bringing erratic winds that can drive flames in unexpected directions.

Two other fires in the county have forced at least 200 residents out of their homes, it said. Those fires grew to more than 690 hectares combined as of Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Nearly 5,000 Northern California homes and other structures were threatened and an unknown number of buildings have burned, said Adrienne Freeman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service.

A man in an fire evacuation centre.
Chris Tierc and his mom Melody Barnett rest at an American Red Cross shelter for McKinney Fire evacuees in Weed, Calif., on Monday. The two were evacuated from Yreka. (Noah Berger/The Associated Press)

The service shut down a 177-kilometre section of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California and southern Oregon and dozens of hikers in that area were urged to abandon their treks and head to the nearest towns.

McKinney wildfire rages

Already the largest blaze in California this year, the McKinney wildfire had scorched at least 21,245 hectares and none of it is considered contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said in a Sunday evening update.

A police cruiser and car are stopped on a road.
The charred remnants of a car towing a trailer are seen on Sunday in northern California’s Klamath National Forest. (David McNew/AFP/Getty Images)

The two bodies were found on Sunday in a car parked in a residential driveway west of the community of Klamath River, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday. It said it would have no additional information about the deaths pending identification and notification of next of kin.

More than two decades of drought and rising temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, have made California more vulnerable than ever to wildfires. The two most devastating years on record were in 2020 and 2021 based on the number of acres burned.

PHOTOS | McKinney wildfire devastates California:

Valerie Linfoot’s son, a fire dispatcher, called to tell her their family home of three decades in Klamath River had burned.

Linfoot said her husband worked as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter for years and the family did everything they could to prepare their house for a wildfire — including installing a metal roof and trimming trees and tall grasses around the property.

‘It’s a beautiful place … it’s absolutely destroyed’

“It was as safe as we could make it, and it was just so dry and so hot and the fire was going so fast,” Linfoot told the Bay Area News Group. She said her neighbours have also lost homes.

“It’s a beautiful place. And from what I’ve seen, it’s just decimated. It’s absolutely destroyed,” she told the news group.

Firefighting crews on the ground were trying to prevent the blaze from moving closer to the town of Yreka, with a population about 7,500. The blaze was about 6.4 kilometres away as of Monday.

Heavy smoke above the fire region helped limit the growth of the McKinney Fire on Sunday, but it also grounded aircraft used to fight the blaze, the U.S. Forest Service said in its statement.

Newsom declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County on Sunday. The declaration will help residents gain access to federal aid and unlock state resources.

One of those forced to evacuate was Harlene Althea Schwander, 81, an artist who moved to the area only a month ago to be near her son and daughter-in-law.

A scorched van.
A scorched van sits in a clearing as the McKinney Fire burns in Klamath National Forest on Sunday. (Noah Berger/The Associated Press)

“I’m very sad. My house is gone, all my furniture, all clothes, shoes, coats, boots. Everything is gone,” Schwander told Reuters on Sunday outside an American Red Cross evacuation shelter in the town of Weed, about 60 kilometres south of the McKinney Fire.

It is the second major wildfire to erupt in California this season. The Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park was 67 per cent contained after it charred more than 7,787 hectares, Cal Fire said on its website.

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