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Wildfires Force Pacific Crest Trail Closure in California

Flames burn to the Klamath River during the McKinney Fire in the Klamath National Forest; (photo/David McNew/AFP via Getty Images)
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The McKinney Fire in Klamath National Forest has burned 55,493 acres, caused mass evacuations in Siskiyou County, and closed about 100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

The California wildfire season continues to ramp up. The McKinney Fire started Friday afternoon in the Klamath National Forest and spread rapidly over the weekend. So far, it has burned over 55,000 acres and forced the evacuations of almost 2,000 residents.

The fire is California’s largest so far this year, according to Cal Fire. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has reported that two people died in a vehicle on a road off Highway 96, west of Klamath River, California.

A second fire, the China 2 Fire, is also burning in the area. Inciweb is covering the two fires as one incident.

It all led California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency on July 30, and now the ongoing blazes have shut down a chunk of the PCT.

CA Wildfire Status and PCT Closure

Saturday, the Pacific Crest Trail Association announced the closure of the 110-mile section of the PCT. The closed portion covers from where the trail crosses County Road 1C01 at Etna Summit to Mt. Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association is asking hikers in or near the area to evacuate to the nearest town.

Fire crews caught a break overnight on Sunday, with a substantial portion of the fire seeing growth-limiting rainfall. Even areas that didn’t see rainfall, such as the China 2 Fire (south of Highway 96), experienced only moderate overnight spread because of high humidity.

“While last night’s weather mitigated fire spread, vegetation in the area is extremely dry, and the continued threat of thunderstorms and the associated strong, erratic winds could result in increased fire behavior,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement on Monday.

“Firefighters will take advantage of the moderated conditions to construct containment lines today, while staying aware of the continued threat for convective activity in the area.”

According to the Forest Service, officials expect the low-pressure weather system to remain in the area for another day. But that same system prompted the National Weather Service to issue a lightning-related Red Flag Warning for the area from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on August 1.

The McKinney and China 2 fires are just the latest major fires to strike drought-stricken California this year. The Oak Fire and Washburn Fires burning outside Yosemite National Park made headlines earlier this summer but are both now mostly contained.

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