McKinney Fire Victims Identified, Officials Speak Out on Potential Cause of Deadly Blaze

by Emily Morgan

Officials have released the names of the victims of California’s largest and deadliest wildfire of the year, known as the McKinney Fire. The news comes as many try to find the reason behind the devastating blaze. 

Firefighters first responded to the McKinney Fire on July 29. But unfortunately, the fire continued to grow, burning up more than 60,000 acres in and around the Klamath National Forest.

In addition, the explosive blaze caught many people off-guard, and many had to abandon their homes at a moment’s notice. Firefighters also reported that around 200 structures were either damaged or destroyed.

After the fire ravaged the area, authorities found human remains within the burned debris. According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, they used DNA technology and dental analysis to identify the victims. 

On Friday, officials identified the deceased as:

  • Kathleen Shoopman, age 73
  • Charles Kays, age 79
  • Judith Kays, age 82
  • John Cogan, age 76

Deputies believe all of the deceased were California residents from the Klamath River community, which the fire severely affected. 

“The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims. If you are willing, please keep those affected by this fire in your prayers,” Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said in a statement.

Currently, the cause of the wildfire is still under investigation by the U.S. Forest Service. However, a recently filed lawsuit alleges utility infrastructure ignited the flames.

McKinney Fire victims identified as new lawsuit alleges utility company is responsible for devastating fire

The lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court alleges PacifiCorp, the area’s utility company, managed the infrastructure. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the company could have ignited nearby dry brush, which spread at a rapid rate. 

“According to the complaint, PacifiCorp, caused utility infrastructure contact creating sparks that ignited dry vegetation and debris. As it was PacifiCorp’s responsibility to manage these utility lines, easements and other right of way issues, PacifiCorp is accused of completely failing in its obligation to maintain its equipment,” a statement from the law firm read.

However, a spokesperson from PacifiCorp refused to comment on the situation, citing the ongoing investigation. 

However, if investigators conclude that utility infrastructure is the cause of the wildfire, it wouldn’t be the first time a destructive fire was ignited by electrical equipment.

In 2019, California’s Utility Commission said PacifiCorp reported 11 wildfire ignitions caused by equipment. Additionally, several other fires have been attributed to other electricity providers in previous years. 

The lethal combination of power lines and dry brush creating wildfires has tormented residents in California for years and has led to some of the state’s largest wildfires.

A recent audit said some of the state’s largest utility companies have not adequately addressed safety concerns, allowing nearly 40,000 miles of power lines to be exposed in areas under a high threat of wildfires.