McKinney Wildfire Kills Two as it Becomes the Biggest Blaze in California

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency with the fast moving flames forcing 2,000 evacuations so far

A wildfire in Northern California that started on Friday moved so quickly over the weekend that it’s grown into the largest wildfire in the state this year, according to CNN. Thousands have been forced to evacuate and two people have been killed, their bodies found in a burned-out car.

The McKinney Fire began Friday afternoon in the Klamath National Forest near the California-Oregon border in Siskiyou County. So far it has burned through over 55,000 acres, causing 2,000 evacuations on Saturday, according authorities. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Saturday.

The blaze was not under control on Sunday, with firefighters battling lightning, thunderstorms, and dry vegetation. Monday’s efforts to fight the flames via aircraft were complicated by thick smoke in the area.

Oregon state Rep. Dacia Grayber her husband, who are both firefighters, were backcountry camping near the California state line and awoke Saturday to “50+hot wind gusts, lightning, blowing ash,” she said on Twitter. “In 22+ yrs of fire I’ve never experienced anything like this fire behavior at night. It felt absolutely surreal and not just a little apocalyptic.”

There are a few bright spots: a kitten with singed whiskers was rescued from the forest by a French photographer, and a puppy was rescued from a burned down residential area, according to the New York Post.

California’s drought conditions have set the stage for a quick-spreading forest fire, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Dry brush, grass, and timber on the forest floor ignites easily.

“The fuel beds are so dry and they can just erupt from that lightning,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman. “These thunder cells come with gusty, erratic winds that can blow fire in every direction.”

More than 2 million people were under red flag warnings—a forecast from the National Weather Service that conditions are ideal for combustion—Monday in parts of northern California, central Oregon, eastern Washington, Montana, eastern Wyoming, western South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

The McKinney Fire isn’t the only blaze in the area. There were 10 different wildfires burning in the Klamath National Forest as of Sunday afternoon, forest officials said.

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