Dozens of hikers were rescued from the Pacific Ridge Trail over the weekend as the McKinney fire continues to devastate Northern California’s Klamath National Forest.
Sixty people were rescued Saturday afternoon on the California side of the trail in Red Butts Wilderness, Jackson County Oregon Sheriff’s Office officials said. The evacuation was conducted by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.
“The difference with hikers on the trail is they’re not as mobile,” said Jackson County Sheriff’s Public Affairs Officer Aaron Lewis. “[We] went to the trails near the roads and began to collect tourists. They were not necessarily in immediate danger.”
Tourists were taken from Interchange 1055 to Seattle Bar on Applegate Lake and then taken to Medford or Ashland, according to Oregon authorities.
As of Monday morning, the McKinney Fire – California’s largest this year – has burned 55,493 acres in the Klamath National Forest near the California-Oregon border. The authorities announced on Monday that two people were found dead inside a burnt car in a fire zone. The flame is localized at 0%.
The fire is carrying smoke and ash into Jackson County, officials said, but there was no direct threat to the public as of the weekend.
The US Forest Service closed 110 miles of the Pacific Ridge Trail through August. 30 due to fire. closing is from Mount Etna in Northern California to Mt. Ashland campsite in southern Oregon.
Violators of the emergency closure could face a $5,000 fine for an individual or $10,000 for an organization and up to six months in prison.
“If you are on the PCT in the area, please evacuate to the nearest town,” the trail website warns.
National Weather Service issued a red flag warning until Monday evening in parts of Oregon as firefighters brace for thunderstorms that could exacerbate conditions.
“We don’t have the advantage we had yesterday inversion [layer], which makes it really smoky, but it also means the fire can’t start – so it puts out the fire,” said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Carolina Quintanilla. “Yesterday we didn’t have the explosive growth we had the day before.”
Lightning strikes and gusty winds during upcoming storms could ignite the dry fuel and fuel the flames further, Quintanilla said.
“During thunderstorms, when cages are being built, they create unsteady winds, sometimes they bring rainfall and sometimes they don’t,” she said. “The rain we got yesterday from a thunderstorm made the grass not as flammable, but the trees and large bushes that are still very dry due to the long drought we are experiencing.”
Thunderstorms are expected around noon and are likely to continue into Tuesday, according to the weather service.