California McKinney Fire: U.S. Forest Service Veteran Employee Killed in Blaze

by Amy Myers

Officials have confirmed that the first identified victim of the California McKinney Fire is U.S. Forest Service veteran Kathy Shoopman.

Shoopman acted as a Klamath National Forest Lookout for years, keeping watch over the wildlands of her home state. On Monday, fellow Klamath firefighters honored the Forest Service employee on social media.

“It is with great sadness that we must announce that the Klamath National Forest has lost one of its own. Kathy died in her home in the community of Klamath River as a result of the McKinney Fire,” the agency said on Facebook.

According to Forest Service spokesperson Tom Stokesberry, Shoopman was in her home when the McKinney Fire erupted. However, the cause of death is not yet clear. The Forest Service veteran was 73 when she died.

Along with the message of mourning, the Klamath National Forest agency shared Shoopman’s extensive experience with the U.S. Forest Service. She served the woodlands of the west for decades, beginning with her first post in the mid-70s.

“Kathy started her career as a lookout at Baldy Mountain Lookout, west of Happy Camp, in 1974,” the agency wrote. “Since then, she has staffed Lake Mountain Lookout, and most recently staffed Buckhorn Lookout, a post she has held since 1993. Kathy lived in the community of Klamath River for nearly five decades. Kathy was also a talented artist, gardener, and a devout animal lover.”

“We share this sorrow with each and every one of you and we know that individually, and as the supportive community that we are, we will find many ways to honor Kathy’s life and service and keep her spirit in all of our lives,” the Forest Service concluded.

Currently, the McKinney Fire stands at 55 percent containment as it consumes more than 60,000 acres throughout California.

U.S. Forest Service Veteran Is One of Four McKinney Fire Victims

Sadly, Shoopman isn’t the only victim of the McKinney Fire. As of Sunday, officials have confirmed that there are four deaths as a result of the flames.

While battling the flames, firefighters came across a vehicle with two bodies still inside. The victims were also members of the Klamath River community, just like Shoopman. The car was located in the driveway of a home just off Highway 96. Officials have yet to release the name of the individuals found in the burned vehicle.

“This brings the confirmed fatality number to 4,” said the Siskiyou County Sheriff in a statement. “At this time there are no unaccounted for persons.”

It is unclear who the fourth victim is or where they were found.

In addition to the tragic news of the four McKinney Fire victims, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on July 31.

“Governor Gavin Newsom today proclaimed a state of emergency for Siskiyou County due to the effects of the McKinney Fire, which has destroyed homes, threatened critical infrastructure and forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 residents,” the press release said.