A wildfire in Northern California, fueled by storms and strong winds from high temperatures, has spread to more than 51,000 acres in two days, becoming the state’s largest wildfire this year and forcing evacuations in rural neighborhoods.
The blaze, dubbed the McKinney Fire, started burning through dry timber in the Klamath National Forest in California’s Siskiyou County on Friday near the Oregon state line, officials said.
As of Sunday morning, officials had not reported any injuries or deaths related to the fire. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced It declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County on Saturday, saying about 2,000 people were under immediate evacuation orders. An additional 1,000 people were ordered to evacuate afterward, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Courtney Kreider said.
By Sunday morning, the fire had not gotten too close to Yreka, a town of about 7,800. Ms. Kreider says she has already destroyed more than a dozen homes and other nearby structures, and that number is expected to rise.
According to the National Weather Service, the heat from the fire created a giant cloud called a pyrocumulonimbus, which is called a “flaming dragon of clouds.” Service in Medford, Ore.
“The fire created thunderstorms that could have sparked new fires nearby,” Brad Schaaf, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Medford, said by phone Sunday.
The fire, which was zero percent contained as of Sunday morning, is one of more than 50 large wildfires and fire complexes that have burned in parts of the United States this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The Oak Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills has burned more than 19,000 acres and threatened thousands of homes and businesses. On Sunday, 64 percent of the fire was extinguished.
The McKinney fire comes at a perilous time for the state, which along with the Pacific Northwest is facing unusually high temperatures as a heat wave sweeps the region this week.
Firefighters on Saturday shifted their focus from fighting the perimeter of the fire to helping evacuate residents and protecting structures, according to the US Forest Service.
Videos and photos of the fire show smoke billowing from trees as the flames engulf the Klamath National Forest in an orange glow. Cars sped by on nearly empty roads, and officers from the Redding Police Department helped evacuate residents who watched the forest burn from a distance.
“Visit those in the far northern province,” the state’s Emergency Management Agency He said on Twitter Saturday. “#McKinneyFire is moving quickly and aggressively with weather conditions.”
Three additional fires in the county — the China 2, Evans and Kelsey Creek fires — have combined to burn 115 acres, Ms. Kreider said. The Kelsey Creek fire was caused by lightning overnight, he added.
Officials and forecasters were concerned about thunderstorms Sunday, which could continue into Tuesday evening. Mr. Schaaf said such storms could start more fires in the area if the lighting comes on.
However, smoke from the McKinney fire could lower temperatures and “oppose some of these storm components,” he said.
Still, “these conditions can be extremely dangerous for firefighters” as erratic winds push the fire in random directions, the Klamath National Forest said in a statement Sunday.
“It makes for a difficult and complicated forecast,” Mr. Schaaf said.