Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2023|
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KLAMATH RIVER, Calif. — A week ago, the scenic Northern California hamlet of Klamath River was home to about 200 people and had a community center, post office and a corner grocery store. Now, after a wildfire raged through the forested region near the Oregon state line, four people are dead and the store is among the few buildings not reduced to ashes.
At an evacuation center Wednesday, Bill Simms said that three of the four victims were his neighbors. Two were a married couple who lived up the road.
“I don’t get emotional about stuff and material things,” Simms said. “But when you hear my next-door neighbors died … that gets a little emotional.”
The 65-year-old retiree bought his property six years ago as a second home with access to hunting and fishing. He said Klamath River is a place people are attracted to because they can have privacy and enjoy nature. He went back to check on his property Tuesday and found it was destroyed.
“The house, the guest house and the RV were gone. It’s just wasteland, devastation,” Simms said. He found the body of one of his two cats, which he buried. The other cat is still missing. He was able to take his two dogs with him to the shelter.
The McKinney Fire broke out Friday and was still out of control on Wednesday, despite progress by firefighters who took advantage of rain from thunderstorms and lower temperatures.
But even the welcome precipitation brought problems. On Tuesday, heavy rain swelled rivers and creeks and a private contractor in a pickup truck who was aiding the firefighting effort was hurt when a bridge gave out and washed away the vehicle, said Courtney Kreider, a spokesperson with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. The contractor was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, she said.
More than 100 buildings ranging from homes to sheds have burned. Identifying the four people who were killed could take several days, Kreider said.
The fire has charred nearly 90 square miles and is the largest in California so far this year. The cause is unknown.
With the rain and cooler temperatures, the blaze grew very little and fire officials said crews used bulldozers to carve firebreaks along a ridge to protect homes and buildings in and around Yreka, which has about 7,800 residents and is the largest city in Siskiyou County.
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