McKinney Fire Death Toll Rises To 4 as Firefighters Continue Battling the Blaze

by Lauren Boisvert

Firefighters in Siskiyou County, California are still trying to contain the McKinney fire as it rips across forest land near Klamath National Forest. The death toll has now risen to 4 since Sunday when a charred vehicle was found with two bodies inside. The vehicle was within the driveway of a home in Klamath River. The two bodies found on Monday were in separate locations along State Route 96.

“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.” The McKinney fire has completely decimated the small Klamath River community, as well as more than 100 homes and other buildings since last Friday when it began.

With the state of emergency declared for Siskiyou County, this could potentially bring fire crews from other states to Northern California to help contain the blaze. McKinney has burned nearly 88 square miles of land, adding up to over 56,000 acres. The Yeti Complex fire is also burning nearby, composed of the China 2 and Alex fires. Strong thunderstorms on Monday helped contain the McKinney fire and allowed fire crews to get a handle on containment. They used bulldozers to create a ring of firebreaks around the town of Yreka. According to NPR, the fire held about 4 miles from the town.

Todd Mack, an incident fire commander with the U.S. Forest Service, told NPR, “We’ve got the weather, we’ve got the horsepower. And we’re getting after it.”

But, with the rain came additional lightning strikes which caused other small fires near McKinney. Winds that reached upwards of 50 mph spread the fire across the dry forest ground. Additionally, the fire is so large we can actually see it from space.

Climate Change Is a Direct Catalyst for Intense Wildfires In Western US

Right now, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently 54 active wildfires in the United States. Together, they’ve burned over 1 million acres of land. Climate change has definitely contributed to the unusually intense wildfire seasons we’ve had over the past few years. High heat and drought in the Western US this year have been catalysts for this particularly destructive wildfire season. And residents are more likely to lose their homes due to extreme weather than they were decades ago, according to a new study.

In a poll done through Data for Progress in early July, 47 percent of Americans felt very or somewhat concerned that a natural disaster could displace them. 25 percent felt “a little” concerned, and 28 percent were not concerned. As we’ve seen so far with the McKinney fire, there’s definitely cause for alarm when it comes to losing entire neighborhoods to natural disasters.

For those wondering how climate change affects extreme weather, many natural disasters feed off of warm, moist air or dry conditions due to drought. The temperature in the Atlantic Ocean has risen, which causes more devastating hurricanes. Additionally, the drought in the Western United States creates the perfect environment for raging wildfires, whether they’re caused by humans or lightning strikes.