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UPDATE: Two people found dead in McKinney Fire path, cause of fire remains under investigation

Destruction from the McKinney Fire off of Highway 96 in Siskiyou County.
California Highway Patrol, Yreka
Destruction from the McKinney Fire off of Highway 96 in Siskiyou County.

UPDATE Monday 3:00 P.M. Two people were found dead inside a burned vehicle in the path of the McKinney Fire, according to the Siskiyou County sheriff's office on Monday morning.

According to the sheriff's office the bodies were found in a vehicle west of the community of Klamath River off of Highway 96. No additional information will be released until the bodies are identified and notifications are sent to next of kin.

The McKinney Fire, first reported Friday afternoon, had grown to 55,493 acres on Monday with 0% containment. Officials say that the fire was not caused by a lightning storm over the weekend. An investigation is underway into how the fire did start.

Around 2,000 people remain evacuated in communities in central Siskiyou County. Evacuation orders spanned unincorporated communities along Highway 96, including Klamath River, Hamburg and Seiad Valley, and areas west of Yreka. Evacuation orders for Siskiyou County can be found here.

Continued hot temperatures and lightning in the forecast have caused red flag warnings for the Yreka area. Hazardous weather conditions are also forecast for communities in Southern Oregon including Medford, Klamath Falls and Rogue River until Tuesday night.

New lightning fires were still being detected on Sunday with crews responding to multiple other fires in the area. The 1,989-acre China 2 Fire is burning west of Seiad Valley and is 0% contained.

Meteorologist Brad Schaaf with the National Weather Service Medford office said thunderstorms are expected each afternoon and evening in the area around the McKinney Fire through Monday. The weather pattern creates the possibility of gusty wind that could continue to drive the fire. But, he said, wildfire smoke could also prevent new thunderstorms.

"The smoke could inhibit some of the instability, meaning that the thunderstorms may not have a chance to really get going in areas with a lot of smoke," Schaaf said.

Persistent drought conditions have caused extremely dry fuels and resulted in rapid fire spread.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association and Forest Service announced the closure of a 110-mile section of the popular hiking trail on Saturday, urging hikers in the area to evacuate to the nearest town. The closure stretches from Etna Summit to Mt. Ashland, across the Oregon border.

Dogs, cats and livestock found around the perimeter of the McKinney Fire are being kept at several locations in Siskiyou County. Found animals are listed on the Siskiyou County animal control website.

A community meeting for residents effected by the fire will be held at 5 p.m. at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds Livestock Arena. It will also be streamed here.

Updated: July 30, 2022 at 2:59 PM PDT
July 31, 10:00 p.m.: This story will be updated as information becomes available.
Geoffrey Riley is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has hosted the Jefferson Exchange on JPR since 2009. He's been a broadcaster in the Rogue Valley for more than 35 years, working in both television and radio.
After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.
Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.