2 bodies found in burnt-out vehicle in California wildfires

YREKA, Calif. (AP) — Two bodies were found inside a charred vehicle in a driveway in the wildfire zone of a raging California blaze that was among several thousand homes threatening Monday in the western United States, officials said. Hot, gusty weather and thunderstorms threatened to increase the danger as the fires continue to grow,

The McKinney Fire in northern California, near the border with Oregon, exploded in size to nearly 87 square miles (225 square kilometers) after erupting in the Klamath National Forest on Friday, officials said. fire officials. It is California’s largest wildfire of the year to date and authorities have yet to determine the cause.

The vehicle and bodies were found Sunday morning in the driveway of a residence near the isolated community of Klamath River, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Nearly 5,000 homes and other structures were threatened and an unknown number of buildings burned down, said Adrienne Freeman, spokeswoman for the US Forest Service.

The smoky blaze cast an eerie orange-brown hue in a neighborhood where a brick chimney was surrounded by rubble and burned-out vehicles on Sunday. The flames set fire to trees along State Route 96 and cut across hills within sight of homes.

The son of Valerie Linfoot, a fire dispatcher, called her to tell her that their three-decade-old family home in Klamath River had burned down. Linfoot said her husband had worked as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter for years and the family had done everything they could to prepare their home for a wildfire, including installing a metal roof and trimming the trees and tall grass around the property.

“It was as safe as it could be, and it was so dry and so hot and the fire was going so fast,” Linfoot told the Bay Area News Group. She said her neighbors also lost homes.

“It’s a beautiful place. And from what I’ve seen it’s just decimated. It’s absolutely destroyed,” she told the news group.

Fire crews on the ground were trying to keep the blaze from moving closer to the town of Yreka, which has a population of around 7,500. The blaze was about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away on Monday.

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A second, smaller fire in the area that was started by dry lightning on Saturday threatened the small California community of Seiad Valley.

Freeman said ‘there was significant damage and loss along the Highway 96 corridor’ which parallels the Klamath River and is one of the few roads in and out of the region.

She added: “But how much damage is still being assessed.”

Erratic thunderstorms were expected to cross northern California again on Monday with lightning threatening to spark new fires in very dry vegetation, forecasters said. A day earlier, thunderstorms caused flash flooding that damaged roads in Death Valley National Park and in the mountains east of Los Angeles.

In northwestern Montana, winds picked up Monday afternoon as a fire burned through wooded land west of Flathead Lake, forcing firefighters to ground all planes and driving the sheriff’s office from Lake County to begin evacuating residents from the northeast corner of the fire.

The blaze was blowing a lot of smoke, creating visibility issues for planes, said Sara Rouse, spokeswoman for the fire management team.

The blaze, which started Friday afternoon near the town of Elmo on the Flathead Indian Reservation, was 20 square miles (52 square kilometers), fire officials said.

The Moose Fire in Idaho has burned more than 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) in the Salmon-Challis National Forest while threatening homes, mining operations and fisheries near the town of Salmon. It was contained at 23% on Monday.

And a raging wildfire in northwest Nebraska prompted evacuations and destroyed or damaged several homes near the small town of Gering. The Carter Canyon Fire started on Saturday as two separate fires that merged. It was about 30% contained early Monday.

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

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

The US Forest Service has closed a 110 mile (177 kilometer) section of the famed Pacific Crest Trail in northern California and southern Oregon. Sixty hikers from that area were helped evacuate on Saturday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, which helped with the effort.

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

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