Firefighters face red flag warning – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Firefighters work to secure fire lines on the McKinney Fire amid hot and smoky conditions. [Photo courtesy of Klamath National Forest ]

McKinney Fire reaches 60,271 acres

Firefighters are facing a red flag warning Monday for hot, dry and windy conditions as they battle the McKinney wildfire near Yreka in Northern California.

Firefighters are facing the same conditions battling a cluster of wildfires in southern Oregon north of Crater Lake National Park.

The largest wildfire in Oregon or California, the McKinney Fire, was 60,271 acres and 40 percent contained as of Monday morning.

On Sunday, hot and windy conditions fueled interior fires that sent plumes of smoke up.

“We had some very large unburned islands in the interior and they came out with a vengeance. That showed you the potential we’re dealing with and we’ll be dealing with over the next few days,” said the team’s fire behavior analyst interagency fire management Dennis Burns at a briefing Monday morning.

Fire lines dug by firefighters and bulldozers were celebrated Sunday, he said.

“We’ve had very hot, very dry, very windy conditions. So we started testing the lines we’ve set up on the fire, and we passed the test yesterday,” Burns said Monday.

Firefighters hope to mop up 300 feet of the fire from fire lines, so local fires pose less of a threat to send embers to the perimeter, he said.

“We have another hot, dry and windy day. We will continue to test our lines,” Burns said.

Temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees with winds up to 25 mph, fire officials said.

People could see more columns of smoke rising from inside the fire.

“We still have the potential to go more inner islands, and there are some closer to the lines. Crews have been briefed. They’re prepared. They’re ready for it,” Burns said.

Crews have set up equipment in risk areas to be ready if the fire jumps the lines, he said.

More than 3,260 people are assigned to the fire, firefighters said.

On Monday morning, brisk thunderstorms moved through the area but didn’t drop enough rain to help firefighters, he said.

“However, we are now on the lookout for some potential lightning,” Burns said.

Firefighters conducted a low intensity tactical burn to consume fuels and protect the school from the Klamath River, fire officials said.

The nearby Smokey Fire remained at 34 acres with 75 percent containment as of Monday. Crews are working on cleanup operations within 150 feet of the perimeter of containment lines, fire officials said.

Several evacuation orders remain in effect. For updates see, or

West of the McKinney Fire, the Yeti and Alex Fires were at 7,885 acres Monday morning at 50 percent containment.

Lines remained on the fires, although residents will likely continue to see isolated pockets of burning material and smoke as interior areas of the fire burn over the next few weeks, fire officials said.

For evacuation updates, see

In southern Oregon, north of Crater Lake National Park, the Windigo Fire was 1,053 acres with 25 percent containment. The fire is the largest of a series of fires in the area.

Lines on the Windigo Fire remained strong Sunday despite warm temperatures and shifting winds. But a red flag warning for lightning and strong winds is in effect until Tuesday evening, testing fire lines again, fire officials said.

“Windigo Fire crews were able to put hose lines around the entire western half and are more than 60 percent around the east side. Today, cleanup will continue around the entire perimeter,” firefighters said Monday.

Nearby, the Potter fire was 234 acres, with firefighters working to develop and reinforce primary and contingency lines, fire officials said.

The Big Swamp Fire was measured at 102 acres after an overnight infrared flight, fire officials said Monday.

Crews battled spot fires Sunday while bulldozers upgraded the lines. Firefighters planned to continue reinforcing lines and adding hoses Monday, while looking at opportunities for a more direct attack on the east flank via Forest Road 2153, fire officials said.

Temperatures are expected to reach 80 degrees, with wind gusts up to 15 mph. The fires have the potential to be detected up to half a mile away, with an 80-85 percent chance of igniting if sparks or embers land on dry fuels, fire officials said.

Resources on the fires included 674 people, 33 engines, heavy equipment, eight Type 1 helicopters and one Type 3 helicopter. Two water jets were available out of Eugene, fire officials said.

Air quality was moderate Monday morning in Medford, Ashland, Talent and Grants Pass. Shady Cove was in the good category, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

For statewide air quality updates, see

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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