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Deadly wildfire wipes out scenic river town

China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-04 09:03

Rancher Gary Rainey and volunteer fire department chief Janet Jones on Monday stand amid the ruins of the community hall in Klamath River, California. DAVID MCNEW/AFP

KLAMATH RIVER, California-For more than 40 years, Roger Derry and his son have lived together in the tiny scenic hamlet of Klamath River in Northern California, and they know most of the town's 200 or so residents.

Now, they are one of the few families left after California's largest and deadliest wildfire of the year raged through the modest homes and stores of the riverside town.

"It's very sad. It's very disheartening," said the 80-year-old. "Some of our oldest homes, 100-year-old homes, are gone. It's a small community. Good people, good folks, for the most part, live here and in time will rebuild. But it's going to take some time now."

The McKinney Fire that erupted last Friday remained out of control, despite some progress as firefighters took advantage of thunderstorms that dumped rain and temporarily took a bit of heat out of the parched, scorched region not far from the Oregon border.

Two more bodies were found within the burn zone of the huge wildfire, raising the death toll to four in the state's largest blaze of the year, authorities said on Tuesday.

The fire has burned more than 228 square kilometers, and is the largest of several wildfires burning in the Klamath National Forest.

The area saw another thunderstorm on Tuesday that dumped heavy rain and swelled rivers.

The fire did not grow on Tuesday, and fire officials said crews were able to use bulldozers to carve firebreaks along a ridge to protect homes and buildings in the county seat of Yreka.

But several thousand people remained under evacuation orders, and 100 buildings ranging from homes to greenhouses have burned.

The destruction of a small community has sadly become a real possibility as wildfires become fiercer in the western United States.

Wildfires in Montana, Idaho and Nebraska have destroyed some homes and continue to threaten communities.

More expected

Scientists said climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

When it began, firefighters thought they would quickly have it under control. But then, a thunderstorm cell came in with ferocious wind gusts that had pushed it into an unstoppable conflagration within hours.

Derry and his son decided not to evacuate when the fire broke out and their home, which they had tried to safeguard by trimming away nearby bushes, survived. Firefighters also showed up and dug firebreaks around the neighborhood.

But they could see the fire as it tore its way through the places around them. The fire destroyed most of the homes. The cause has not been determined.

Agencies via Xinhua

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