With more than 51,000 acres burned and evacuations mounting, California is battling its worst wildfire this year and chaotic weather is threatening to make matters worse.
McKinney Fire, which started in the northern Siskiyou County on Friday, spreads rapidly in the north of the state after it has already burnt 21,000 hectares prompting the evacuation of at least 2,000 residents as well as around 60 trekkers on the Pacific Crest hiking trail.
According to the forest service, the Pacific Crest Trail runs from the Mexican border through California, Oregon, and Washington to Canada.
Many homes in the area have been destroyed while hundreds of firefighters are battling the largest wildfire to spread in California so far this year, but the emergency service’s latest report said it was 0% contained as of Sunday.
State governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Siskiyou County on Saturday, saying the blaze has threatened critical infrastructure and noting that it was spread and intensified by dry fuels, extreme drought conditions, high temperatures, erratic and extremely strong winds causing the fire to spread in any direction, and lightning storms.
Newsom’s office informed of the evacuation warnings of another more than 200 residents after two other fires burning in Siskiyou County – the China 2 and Evans – merged and together burned more than 300 acres.
According to the US Census Bureau, Siskiyou County has a population of just about 44,000.
The US Forest Service also warned that possible thunderstorms could result in more fires in the coming days, developing conditions that could be extremely dangerous for firefighters.
However, meteorologist Brad Schaaf says that smoke from the McKinney blaze could lower temperatures and possibly counteract some of the dangerous thunderstorm ingredients.
McKinney blaze is the second major blaze to hit California in recent days after the Oak Fire – near Yosemite National Park – which is still roaring after eight days. The fire department Cal Fire said that it has been 67% contained.