McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County explodes to over 18,000 acres overnight

A a wildfire burns in far northern California which began around 2 p.m. Friday had exploded to about 30,000 to 40,000 acres in less than 24 hours due to windy conditions and other extreme weather, officials said.

The evacuation orders extended in West Yreka on Saturday evening, with Evacuation warnings in place for all city residents west of Interstate 5.

The governor’s office had estimated earlier Saturday afternoon that some 2,000 people were under evacuation orders due to the fire.

Officials said thunderstorms and unpredictable winds in the area have made it difficult to determine the path of the fire, which is burning in Klamath National Forest near the Oregon border.

“We still have thunderstorms in the area and that means lightning and erratic winds. I don’t believe we were expecting a lot of precipitation,” Caroline Quintanilla, public information manager for the Klamath Nation Forest, said Saturday afternoon. “Dry lightning is of concern.”

The fire was 1% contained on Saturday evening and fire weather warnings were issued. indeed for the Sunday and Monday zone.

“It’s been a crazy time,” Yreka resident Kiko Gomez said, speaking by phone on Saturday afternoon. “I feel a little nervous, not just for myself but for others.”

Gomez, who left Yreka on Saturday night, said after living in the area for more than a decade, this is the closest a fire has ever come.

In a sign of its extreme behavior, the wildfire sent a 50,000ft pyrocumulonimbus cloud – a plume generated by intense fires – in the air, pushing smoke above the clouds, noted climatologist Daniel Swain on Twitter.

Smoke from the fire was blowing northeast and should not affect the Bay Area.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Brandon Criss, whose district is east of Yreka, said he had friends in town packing up and getting ready to leave. He said he could smell the heavy smoke at his home in Dorris, just south of the Oregon border.

“The fire has grown exponentially lately,” he said. He added that the board of supervisors will likely declare a state of emergency in the county when it meets on Tuesday.

No information is available on the cause of the fire. Newsom’s office’s declaration of a state of emergency will help reduce red tape and expedite resources to the region, potentially including other states.

The area around the blaze was under weather watch until Monday as lightning was expected over dry vegetation. Two additional fires in Siskiyou County — the China 2 and Evans fires — are also triggering evacuation warnings for more than 200 residents. The two fires merged earlier in the day and have scorched more than 300 acres.

Crews from several agencies are battling the flames. US Forest Service firefighters are currently in charge, but an Incident Management Team from California, which coordinates agencies like the Forest Service and Cal Fire, was scheduled to take over Sunday morning.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela, who represents Mount Shasta, said even though he was miles away from the fire, he could see the clouds of smoke from his backyard.

“Hopefully with the moderation of time they can get the situation under control,” he said. “It’s not the first rodeo. We’ve been through fires.

Danielle Echeverria and Emma Talley are the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail: Twitter: @DanielleEchev @EmmaT332

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