McKinney Fire claims two lives, forces evacuations, prompts Pacific Crest Trail closure
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Dave Kim, whose name is “Floppy D” on the Pacific Crest Trail, is among a number of PCT hikers who have made their way to Ashland in the last few days following closure of portions of the trail due to the McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County.
Kim, 32, of Philadelphia, with a pack on his back, was in relatively good spirits as Mara Rouse, disaster program manager and shelter supervisor, welcomed him to Ashland’s American Red Cross shelter in Ashland Monday afternoon.
“Anything you need, let us know,” Rouse said.
“Will do,” he said.
The East Coast hiker is not the only one finding refuge in Ashland in the last few days after the McKinney Fire broke out Friday afternoon in Klamath National Forest west of Yreka.
More than 60 hikers were evacuated from the PCT on Saturday after the Forest Service closed sections of the PCT, according to Sgt. Shawn Richards of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
“For lack of a better term, there’s a choke point down in the Seiad Valley or Etna, where the California authorities will help bus them around,” Richards told Ashland.news.
About 10 personnel, including two JCSO deputies and search and rescue volunteers assisted in the evacuation efforts, with three separate round trips to retrieve hikers over the weekend.
“The majority of them were on the 1050 Road, which is in California, south of Applegate Lake,” Richards said. “We got the rest off of the 20 Road, between Applegate River and Mount Ashland.”
RVTD brought the individuals to Ashland, Richards said, where they could make plans for their next steps.
“I’m hoping that we have them all gathered up that were in that section, but who knows,” Richards said. “It’s a really busy time of year for the Pacific Crest Trail.”
The shelter opened Friday night, Rouse said, and as of Sunday night, housed 24 individuals, with a mix of evacuees from Klamath River and Yreka as well as evacuees from the PCT.
“We had a huge wave of folks leave today, which we’re always happy to see folks leave on their way and have a good recovery plan and then we had another wave come in,” Rouse said Monday afternoon.
As of Monday afternoon, the Ashland shelter housed 18 people.
Rouse said the shelter in Ashland is an extension of Red Cross shelter efforts in Yreka.
The Ashland shelter, in cooperation with Ashland’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be open for as long as it is needed, Rouse said, a need that’s evaluated on a daily basis, according to Rouse.
“The mission of the Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering by mobilizing the power of our donors and volunteers and so we’re … 90% volunteers, 10% paid staff,” Rouse said.
Meals, water, cots — anything that individuals need short-term is provided during their stay, according to Rouse.
“We have licensed mental health professionals as volunteers, physicians, nurses, and then also some spiritual care providers as well,” Rouse said. “We have had some really generous community members who have been providing rides, have been taking them from the trails that they’ve been on and dropping them off here at the shelter.”
Rouse said donations of pre-packaged snacks are being accepted at the shelter at 111 Clay St., Ashland.
Smoke from the McKinney Fire continues to impact Ashland residents on Monday, but the city emphasizes the fire is not endangering local residents.
Ashland Fire & Rescue is monitoring the fire situation with help from the Oregon Department of Forestry, according to a city news release.
The McKinney Fire, located in Siskiyou County, started Friday. The fire is 0% contained and was listed at 55,493 acres as of Monday afternoon. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation but the Forest Service said it is clear that the fire was not caused by lightning.
Incident command in Siskiyou County held a community meeting Monday at 5 p.m. to share updates on the fire.
“I’ve never been more proud to be a Siskiyou County resident than the last few days,” said Rachel Smith, Klamath National Forest supervisor, who told the crowd in attendance that she herself had been evacuated from her home.
“We know that we’ve lost multiple folks in the midst of this fire,” she added. “There are two that have been confirmed dead after Sheriff Larue’s updates this morning. It’s a loss that is just unimaginable and it’s breaking my heart. I know it’s breaking many of your hearts, too.
“In the midst of that, the thing that I’m holding onto is watching Siskiyou County stand up for each other.”
The two fire victims were found by fire personnel at about 10 a.m. Sunday, July 31, inside a vehicle that was burned in a residential driveway along Doggett Creek Road off of Highway 96, west of the community of Klamath River, California, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.