Two bodies were found inside a burned-out car in the path of a huge wildfire raging near California‘s border with Oregon, authorities said on Monday, as heavy smoke limited efforts to deploy aircraft to contain the blaze over the weekend.
Since it broke out on Friday, the fast-moving McKinney Fire has forced at least 2,000 residents to evacuate while destroying homes and critical infrastructure, mostly in Siskiyou County, home to Klamath National Forest, according to a release by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday.
Two other fires in the county have forced at least 200 residents out of their homes, it said. Those fires grew to more than 1,700 acres combined as of Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said.
Already the largest blaze this year, the fire had scorched 52,498 acres and was 0% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said in a Sunday evening update.
The two bodies were found on Sunday in a car parked in a residential driveway west of the community of Klamath River, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday. It said it would have no additional information about the deaths pending identification and notification of next to kin.
More than two decades of drought and rising temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, have made California more vulnerable than ever to wildfires. The two most devastating years on record were in 2020 and 2021 based on the number of acres burned.
Heavy smoke above the fire region helped limit the growth of the McKinney Fire on Sunday but it also grounded aircraft used to fight the blaze, the U.S. Forest Service said in its statement.
Newsom declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County on Sunday. The declaration will help residents gain access to federal aid and unlock state resources.
Democrats like Newsom have been trying to pass the blame for the state’s far-too-common wildfires to “climate change” and “global warming” for years. However, even some liberal media outlets have pointed out that a lot of the state’s environmental policies have played a big role in fueling the issue.
“This is California’s big secret: it’s not climate change that’s burning up the forests, killing people, and destroying hundreds of homes; it’s decades of environmental mismanagement that has created a tinderbox of unharvested timber, dead trees, and thick underbrush,” Forbes reported in 2019. “This dangerous situation attracted attention from President Donald Trump who, during the height of California’s wildfires [in 2018] insisted that ‘There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.'”
The famed Pacific Crest Trail crosses the area along the California-Oregon border where the latest fire was burning. According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, at least 60 hikers had been located on the trail in the Klamath National Forest and escorted to safety.
The McKinney Fire was the second major wildfire to erupt in California this season. The Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park was 67% contained after charred more than 19,244 acres, Cal Fire said on its website.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters