Two people were found dead as the raging McKinney Fire, that has become the largest so far this year in the drought-stricken California, has continued to grow in size, authorities said.
The wildfire that began on July 29 in the Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County, near the California-Oregon border, has so far scorched over 55,000 acres (over 222 square km) with zero containment as of Monday evening, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook that fire personnel on Sunday located the two victims inside a vehicle that was burned in the path of the McKinney Fire, reports Xinhua news agency.
The vehicle was located in a residential driveway, said the Sheriff’s Office, adding that there will be no additional information pending positive identification and notifications to next-of-kin.
“Much of the McKinney Fire saw rainfall overnight, keeping fire growth minimal. The fire continues to actively back toward structures in the Walker Creek area, and night crews were on hand to do structure protection there,” said US Forest Service – Klamath National Forest.
While the weather mitigated fire spread, vegetation in the area is extremely dry and the continued threat of thunderstorms and the associated strong, erratic winds could result in increased fire behaviour, it said, adding that there have been numerous lightning strikes in the area in the last 48 hours, and at least 12 holdover fires have been detected on the Klamath National Forest.
The McKinney Fire quickly overtook the Oak Fire that was burning in Mariposa County to be the largest wildfire of 2022 in the state.
CAL FIRE data showed that the Oak Fire has burned over 19,244 acres (77.9 square km) with 72 per cent containment, and destroyed 190 structures to date.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County due to the effects of the McKinney Fire and two additional blaze in the area.
The Governor noted that the McKinney Fire, which had been intensified and spread by dry fuels, extreme drought conditions, high temperatures, winds and lightning storms, had destroyed homes, threatened critical infrastructure and forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 residents.