Two people were found dead in the path of a wildfire that raged across Northern California as firefighters rushed to contain the blaze amid scorching temperatures and looming thunderstorms.
The McKinney fire in Northern California, which has grown to become California’s largest this year, is one of several major fires in the western US and one of the simultaneous extreme weather events plaguing the region.
The fire exploded in size last weekend in a largely uninhabited area in the Klamath National Forest, just south of the Oregon state line. Officials said the flames had scorched more than 55,000 acres by Monday morning.
Despite a huge attempt to put out the fire, the fire was 0% under control. Crews on the ground worked to stop the fire from moving east to the town of Yreka, which is home to 7,500 people. Thousands of people in the area had to evacuate.
The two victims were found in a charred vehicle parked in a residential driveway, the local sheriff’s office said. The victims were not immediately identified.
A second, smaller fire burned just to the west. It was sparked by dry lightning on Saturday, threatening the small town of Seiad.
A third fire, on the southwest side of the McKinney blaze, led to evacuation orders for about 500 homes on Sunday, said Courtney Kreider, a spokesman for the Siskiyou Sheriff.
Meanwhile, fires raged in Montana and Idaho, flash floods destroyed roads in Death Valley National Park and put residents in Nevada and northern Arizona on edge, and a debilitating heatwave in the Pacific Northwest set records in Seattle and Portland.
The fire in northwestern Montana was fanned in grasslands near the town of Elmo and had grown to about 27 square miles on Sunday after moving into the woods. In Idaho, the moose fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest has burned more than 75 square miles of forested land near the city of Salmon. It had capped 21% by Sunday.
Roads in and out of Death Valley National Park were closed this weekend after mud and debris flooded into lanes. On Monday, the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for counties on both sides of the California-Nevada border.
Amid the various emergencies, Vice President Kamala Harris prepared to announce $1 billion to address extreme heat and flooding, as well as help communities adapt infrastructure to the increasingly unstable weather caused by the climate crisis. .
“We know the impact of the climate crisis is here and we need to invest in building resilience to protect our communities, infrastructure and economy,” the White House said.
The investment is part of a broader effort by Joe Biden’s National Climate Task Force “to build resilience to climate impacts, including extreme heat, wildfires, drought, flooding, coastal threats, financial risks and more,” according to the White House.
Earlier this month, Biden unveiled an extreme heat plan but stopped declaring a climate emergency, as climate activists have urged.
Across the western US, the need for emergency funding and disaster-proof infrastructure has been acute in communities reeling from the simultaneous threats of flooding, drought, wildfires and heat.
Scientists say the climate crisis has made the western US warmer and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and devastating.