McKinney Fire prompts evacuations northwest of Yreka, CA

Updated 5:58 p.m. PDT July 31, 2022

The AlertWildfire camera in Northern California on Herd Peak recorded the effect of what is likely outflow winds from a thunderstorm affecting smoke from the McKenney Fire. At the time on Sunday afternoon July 31, 2022 it had burned about 52,000 acres northwest of Yreka. It appears that the fire is spreading across the ground, but most likely it is just smoke.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the McKinney Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

Rain on the fire
It was very spotty, but some locations on the McKinney Fire received rain Saturday night between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday morning. The weather station on Mt. Baldy on the western edge of the fire received just over half an inch, Scott Barr three miles west of the fire got 0.19″, and Oak Knoll off Highway 96 received 0.01″. Several locations near Yreka recorded no precipitation.

There are very few weather stations in or near the fire area, but the National Weather Service produced the map below with estimated precipitation amounts based on radar observations.

rain McKinney Fire
Radar observed precip, for the 24-hour period ending at 5 a.m. PDT July 31, 2022. NWS.

The west side of the fire received the most precipitation, according to the radar, with much less on the east side. The radar data is just an estimate, but it appears possible that a good sized portion of the west side received at least a wetting rain, with much of that side experiencing between 0.10 and 0.50″. If this is the case, the east side should see more fire growth for at least the next day or so than on the west side.

Fire activity
The rain combined with an inversion Saturday evening to slow the fire, but activity increased in some locations around midnight. Crews were actively engaged in structure protection in the Klamath River area. Little progression was observed on the southeast side closest to Yreka.

The McKinney Fire was mapped Sunday afternoon at 52,499 acres. The China 2 Fire 15 miles west of the McKinney Fire has burned 1,652 acres on the south side of Highway 96.

Sunday
Priorities for Sunday are to continue structure preparation and protection in the Highway 96 corridor, and around the communities of Fort Jones and Yreka.

Homes destroyed
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that several structures have been destroyed. Sheriff’s office Spokeswoman Courtney Kreider said residences along Highway 96 in the Klamath River drainage burned. She did not have a specific number.


Updated at 5:36 a.m. PDT July 31, 2022

McKinney Fire map 3-D
McKinney Fire 3-D map, looking west-southwest at 12:30 a.m. PDT July 31, 2022. The white lines were the perimeter at 5:19 p.m. on July 29.

The McKinney Fire in Northern California eight miles south of the Oregon state line was very active throughout the night. When it was mapped by an aircraft at 12:30 a.m. Sunday it had grown to 51,468 acres. During a satellite overflight at 3:38 a.m. about 90 percent of the heat detected was on the east and southeast sides.

This was the only complete mapping of the fire since noon on Saturday due to thunderstorms and lightning in the area which restricted flights of air tankers and helicopters.

McKinney Fire map
McKinney Fire map at 12:30 a.m. PDT July 31, 2022. The white line was the perimeter at 5:19 p.m. on July 29.

At 12:30 a.m. Sunday it was 5 miles northwest of Yreka, 2 miles north of Greenhorn Road, 5 miles west of Highway 263, 4 miles east of Scott Bar, and 2 miles east of Horse Creek.

The mapping flight found a 75-acre fire burning four miles northwest of the McKinney Fire east of Condrey Mountain. It is unknown at this point if it a new fire or a spot from the McKinney.

Another fire 15 miles west of the McKinney Fire, the China 2 Fire, has burned approximately 1,000 acres south of Highway 96 in the Seiad Valley area.

Weather
Isolated and scattered thunderstorms with little or no rain are predicted for the area on Sunday with gusty outflow winds of 40-50 mph and cloud to ground lightning. Pyrocumulus could regenerate with potential for rapid fire growth and spread. There is a 5 percent chance of wetting rain. The relative humidity will be 15 to 25 percent.


Updated 6:41 p.m. PDT July 30, 2022

Saturday afternoon the area around the McKenny Fire northwest of Yreka, California was covered by cumulonimbus clouds, thunderstorms with lightning. This made it very difficult for air tankers, helicopters, or mapping aircraft to work over the blaze. Even the AlertWildfire cameras on mountain peaks late in the afternoon could see nothing but smoke. But satellite imagery peeking through breaks in the clouds detected intense heat from the fires.

The video below shows lightning and heat detected by a satellite during a 2-hour period ending at 6:21 p.m. PDT July 30 in Northern California and southwest Oregon. The red areas represent heat from the fires. The white line is the Oregon/California border. The white flashes are lightning.

Evacuations are in effect over a large area, ordered by the Siskiyou County Sheriff. Details can be found on their Facebook page.Zonehaven Aware map is also available.

At 3 p.m. Saturday the US Forest Service estimated the fire had burned 30,000 to 40,000 acres.


Updated 1:20 p.m. PDT July 30, 2022

McKinney Fire map, 12:04 p.m July 30, 2022
McKinney Fire map, 12:04 p.m July 30, 2022

The FIRIS aircraft mapped the McKinney Fire at an astounding 29,493 acres just after noon today. That explosive growth is less than 24 hours after it was reported at 2:15 p.m. Friday. (See map above)

This current map shows us that at 12:04 p.m. Saturday it was 9 miles west-northwest of Yreka, 3 miles northwest of Scott Bar, and 3 miles west of Gottsville.

During its first 22 hours it spread north 4 miles, east 5 miles, south 6 miles, and west about 2 miles.


9:48 a.m. PDT July 30, 2022

McKinney Fire

The McKinney Fire northwest of Yreka, California grew rapidly after it was reported Friday afternoon south of Highway 96 in the Klamath National Forest. Since then it has spread north across the highway and also to the south.  At about 5 a.m. Saturday the Siskiyou County Sheriff said it was approximately four miles from Scott Bar after having been very active all night.

At about 8:45 a.m. on Saturday the Klamath National Forest estimated it had burned approximately 18,000 acres. The most recent perimeter map available is from Friday at 5:19 p.m., when it was only 65 acres. This current estimate from the Forest Service indicates it is 277 times larger. Additional perimeter mapping data was most likely prevented by lightning and thunderstorms in the area.

The fire was 14 miles northwest of Yreka when first reported, but grew closer overnight.

Evacuations are in effect over a large area, ordered by the Siskiyou County Sheriff. Details can be found on their Facebook page.Zonehaven Aware map is also available.

McKinney Fire location map 5:19 p.m July 29, 2022
McKinney Fire map, showing the initial location where it started. This was at 5:19 p.m July 29, 2022 and has grown substantially since then.

This appears to be a dangerous fire showing explosive growth. Residents should heed evacuation orders.

There is at least one other fire west of the McKinney Fire south of Highway 96, two miles west of Seiad Valley.

heat and smoke from the McKinney Fire
Satellite view of heat and smoke from the McKinney Fire at 9:21 a.m. MDT July 30. NOAA.
McKinney Fire
McKinney Fire soon after it started July 29, 2022. It has grown substantially since then. InciWeb.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “McKinney Fire prompts evacuations northwest of Yreka, CA”

  1. Interesting picture in the very early stage of this fire. What went wrong (what went right). See the retardant on two sides. Fire size less than one acre?

  2. I read: “But satellite imagery peeking through breaks in the clouds detected intense heat from the fires.” I must call attention to this critically fundamental observation. For it alerts us to the influence of CLOUD upon Wildfires. The heat radiation is not transmitted through a cumulonimbus cloud. Hence, the “heat” of the wildfire is scattered back downward to ward its origin, thus making the wildfire hotter because it is not being cooled by radiation.

    While the evidence is no one seems to pay any attention to my comments; a fact is that if I do not make these comments, no one can read what hasn’t been written.

  3. It was interesting to me that only one person (Mr.Goeller) took the time to respond to my open-end question, why did this fire escape? Thank you, Bob, for filling me in on the chemical makeup of retardant. Eventually it doesn’t work too well. Here is an old fire service saying: If you over order on resources and the fire goes out, only your boss will be upset because you spent so much money. If you under order and the fire escapes, everyone remembers your screw-up. Understanding fire/weather and having knowledge of what you are faced with is paramount.

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