Yesterday marked a week since the McKinney took off. We’ve experienced some heartbreaking losses – four lives lost, 87 residences reported as destroyed so far (the assessment is only about halfway done), and an uncountable impact to our remarkable National Forest and private property. But, we are gaining ground. As of this morning’s briefing, our brave firefighters have achieved thirty percent containment on the McKinney Fire. We are making strong progress on the Yeti and Alex fires, and law enforcement, in coordination with our Incident Management Teams, has been able to reduce evacuation orders to warnings on several fronts of the McKinney Fire.
Our containment is displayed on the incident maps as black line. This is line we feel confident about, that is weather-tested and has held solid. Much of the remainder of the McKinney Fire perimeter is lined, and I expect to see increased containment progressively over the next few shifts. Make no mistake though – we have not yet defeated this fire yet. Several days ago, my partner CAL FIRE Siskiyou Unit Chief Phil Anzo called this fire a “beast” and I agree – it is burning in parts of the forest with limited or no recorded fire history, steep terrain, and dense fuels. Conditions similar to what we experienced at the start of the McKinney Fire (very hot, dry, and unstable) are predicted to return to our area and this thing still has potential. Our unified firefighters are working hard to hold the fire where it is, shielding communities and precious National Forest and private timberlands from further damage. Thursday, we hosted California Governor's Office of Emergency Services Director Ghilarducci to review some of the damage that communities downriver have sustained as a consequence of the fire; yesterday we worked with national fire leadership from the talented National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) along with industry and state partners to work through options for how we’d regroup if we encounter unexpected fire behavior or another unstable weather event occurs.
To our west, good progress is being made on the Yeti Fire. My Incident Management Team managing that fire is based out of Happy Camp and has been working extremely aggressively to protect the river communities of Seiad, Fort Goff, and Happy Camp. Several downriver communities including Happy Camp are under evacuation warnings as I write this message. As fire has progressively encroached on the community of Seiad, an interagency group of wildland firefighters, including a 20-person Karuk tribal handcrew, has been protecting homes from isolated spot fires.
I couldn’t be more proud to be hosting California Team 10 who is managing this incident. They are led by #northstateheroes including the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Fire Management Officer Todd Mack, Klamath National Forest Assistant Fire Management Officer Heather McRae, and populated by many other familiar north state fire leaders. This evening, alongside CAL FIRE Chief Anzo and Supervisor Ray Haupt, I will be attending a community meeting in Happy Camp to talk about the team’s progress and answer your questions.
We are not alone in experiencing fire activity – in the last day, the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest to our north in southern Oregon has started to experience some new lightning starts. Yesterday morning, lightning on the Six Rivers National Forest drove development of 11 new named fires which are roughly 1,000 acres total in size in the steep rugged terrain around Willow Creek. The Six Rivers has a Type 2 Incident Management Team enroute.
Around this Forest, your Klamath National Forest firefighters are continuing to aggressively jump on new fire starts. Yesterday morning we fielded a new crop of lightning with small fires started across the forest. Potential for more lightning is expected this weekend. I need to ask for your continued support, patience, and vigilance in watching for new smokes and doing your part to prevent any human-caused fires. Please take care of yourselves and each other.
Rachel Smith Forest Supervisor Klamath National Forest
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For daily updates on the McKinney, Yeti, and Alex fires, please monitor the following:
Yeti and Alex: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8299/