Precipitation and better weather on Tuesday brought some respite to firefighters in northern California, where the largest blaze of the year, which killed two people, remained however out of control.
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The fire, dubbed "McKinney", has been raging since Friday. It extends over 22,500 hectares, and threatens in particular the small town of Yreka.
Thanks to lower temperatures and scattered rainfall, “no expansion of the perimeter of the fire has been observed,” authorities wrote late Monday.
But optimism remained cautious, as an alert from the weather services due to the threat of lightning remained active. After a lull through early Tuesday afternoon, further thunderstorms are expected, they said.
“The vegetation in the area is extremely dry and the continued threat of thunderstorms, and associated strong and unpredictable winds, could cause the fire to flare up again,” warned the California fire agency.
Bulldozers were positioned to protect buildings near the town of Yreka (8,000 inhabitants).
On Sunday morning, the bodies of two deceased people were discovered in a charred vehicle further north, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office, where a state of emergency has been declared.
Evacuation orders have been issued in this area of California, neighboring Oregon.
"I'm holding on, and trying not to leave too early because I'm helping my mother who is not in good physical health to get around," Rafael Franco, a resident who received the mandatory evacuation order.
“If, at the last minute, I see the fire crossing the ridge where we are, then we will grab what we can and leave, and we will move forward hoping for the best,” he adds.
Marjie Lawrence, who hastily left the town of Klamath River on Friday night, said she returned to her home to collect personal belongings. “We took stuff in case the house totally burned down, stuff we wanted, but not enough,” she explained.
The fire season in California, a state in a persistent drought situation, is expected to last several months. The frequency and strength of these fires are exacerbated by global warming.