Two bodies found in burning car in California wildfires
Two bodies found in burning car in California wildfires

Two bodies found in burning car in California wildfires

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A firefighter battling the McKinney fire protects a hut in Klamath National Forest, California, Sunday, July 31, 2022 (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Associated Press

Two bodies were found inside a charred car in a driveway in the California wildfires that were among several thousand homes threatening Monday in the western United States, officials said. Hot, stormy weather and thunderstorms threaten to increase the risk of continuing fires,

The McKinney fire in northern California near the state line with Oregon exploded nearly 87 square miles in size after it broke out Friday in the Klamath National Forest, fire officials said. This is the largest wildfire in California this year so far, and officials have not determined the cause.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that the car and the bodies were found Sunday morning in the driveway of a home near the Klamath River hinterland.

Nearly 5,000 homes and other facilities in Northern California have been threatened, and an unknown number of buildings have been burned, said Adrian Freeman, a US Forest Service spokesman.

The smoky fire cast a frightening hue of orange-brown into a neighborhood where a brick chimney was surrounded by rubble and burnt cars on Sunday. Trees were set on fire along State Route 96 and darted across hillsides within sight of homes.

Valerie Linfoot’s son, a firefighter, called to tell her that her family’s three-decade home in the Klamath River had burned down. Linfoot said her husband worked as a US Forest Service firefighter for years, and the family did everything they could to prepare their home for wildfires — including installing a metal roof and trimming trees and tall grass around the property.

“The place was as safe as we could make it, it was very dry and very hot and the fires were burning very quickly,” Linfoot told the Bay Area News Group. She said her neighbors also lost their homes.

“It’s a beautiful place. From what I saw, it just annihilated me,” she told the newsgroup.

Fire crews on the ground were trying to prevent the fire from approaching the town of Yreka, which has a population of about 7,500. The fire was about four miles (6.4 kilometers) away as of Monday.

A second, smaller fire in the area sparked by dry lightning on Saturday threatened the small California community of Sead.

“There was significant damage and loss along Highway 96,” which runs parallel to the Klamath River and is one of the few roads in and out of the area, Freeman said.

“But how much damage is still being assessed,” she added.

Intermittent storms are expected to move across northern California again on Monday, meteorologists said, with lightning threatening to ignite new fires in dry vegetation. The day before, thunderstorms caused flash floods that destroyed roads in Death Valley National Park and in the mountains east of Los Angeles.

A fire in the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana, which began in the grasslands near Elmo Town on Friday and has moved into woodland areas, had grown to 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) by Monday, fire officials said. Residents of about 20 homes were told to be ready to evict.

A moose fire in Idaho has burned more than 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) in the Salmon Chalice National Forest while threatening homes, mining operations and fisheries near Salmon Township. It was 23% contained on Monday.

A massive fire in northwestern Nebraska led to evacuations and destroyed or damaged many homes near the small town of Gering. The Carter Canyon fire started Saturday with the merging of two separate fires. It was about 30% contained by early Monday.

In California, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday, giving him more flexibility to make emergency response decisions, recovery efforts and tap federal aid.

Scientists said climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more intense and more frequent and destructive of wildfires.

The US Forest Service has closed a 110-mile (177 km) section of the popular Pacific Crest Trail in northern California and southern Oregon, and dozens of hikers in that area have been urged to give up their trips and head to the nearest towns.

Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana; Marjorie Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; Keith Riddler of Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

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