Some evacuation orders lifted on McKinney fire, now 10% contained

Rain allowed firefighters to ramp up their efforts against the massive McKinney Fire, which is now 10% contained, officials said during a community meeting Wednesday in Fort Jones, California.

The fire, which has charred 57,519 acres, slowly burned in Siskiyou County as authorities lifted some evacuation orders. Four bodies were found on his way.

The Yeti complex and Alex fires that burned nearby have been listed at 2,986 acres and 151 acres, respectively, according to Klamath National Forest. Both were included at 0%.

Ten evacuation zones — seven in Yreka and three in the county — were downgraded to alerts, officials said Wednesday night. The affected areas are primarily in Yreka from Fairchild Street and Shasta Avenue west to the edge of the neighborhood.

Residents in those zones can return to their homes, but authorities stressed caution and warned that if warnings turn into orders, anyone in the area should still be ready to leave.

Officials directed residents to for up-to-date information on evacuation orders and warnings.

Phil Anzo, a department chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said recent rains have allowed crews to get to the edge of the fire and build containment lines, but he stressed the work is far from over.

“If you look at this fire on this map … it’s massive and there’s still a lot to do,” Anzo said.

Though the rain suppressed parts of the fire, it presented some challenges for firefighters, said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst with California Interagency Incident Management Team 2.

Matt Conklin, an operations manager who is also on Team 2, noted that the rain caused some debris flows in the Humbug Creek area, causing delays in crews’ cleanup efforts.

And after years of drought, the fuels dried so much that the rain did little but temporarily slow the fire, Burns said.

Some fuels in the combustion area have a moisture content of 4% to 6%, he said, compared to the typical 11% moisture of kiln-dried wood bought from a lumberyard.

“Even though we got this rain, these heavier fuels, this rain didn’t affect it in any way,” Burns said. “All it did was take the flames away from it. We would have been better off having 1 inch of rain over three days than the 3 inches of rain we got in an hour yesterday.”

The rain stopped the fire and allowed firefighters to get closer, but in some areas the precipitation made matters worse by dousing fuels that would otherwise have been completely consumed and preparing them for a reignition, he said.

Rainfall over the fire was patchy, with most of the burn area covering less than a tenth of an inch, Burns said.

Still, firefighters took advantage of the pause in extreme fire behavior, he said. As the weather gets hotter and drier in the coming days, crews can test existing safety lines against the conditions.

Though the blaze will continue to emit smoke, firefighters believe there shouldn’t be any major deployments for the next three to four days, Burns said.

Darryl Laws, a unified incident commander at Cal Fire, echoed the assessment, calling the McKinney Fire “a sleeping giant.”

Laws and other officials urged all residents, including those who were allowed to return to their homes, to be on the alert and ready to evacuate if necessary.

“If people don’t obey those orders and call 911 … that will prevent us from putting out the fire,” he said. “The best way to protect your homes is for us to go out and put out the fire.” Some evacuation orders lifted on McKinney fire, now 10% contained

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