Evacuations ordered as Northern California fire roars through forest near site of 2022 deadly blaze

HAMBURG, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire pushed by gusty winds from a thunderstorm raced through national forest land near California’s border with Oregon on Tuesday, prompting evacuations in the rural area.

The blaze in Siskiyou County, dubbed the Head Fire, was one of at least 19 fires — most of them tiny — that erupted in the Klamath National Forest as thunderstorms rolling through the area brought lightning and downdrafts that drove the flames through timber and rural lands. Current rough estimates late Tuesday place the fire at 3,000-4000 acres (1214-1618 hectares).

Evacuation orders and warnings have been issued, forest supervisor Rachel Smith said in a statement on Facebook. “If you are in this area, please get out immediately,” she said.

In the space of a few hours, the blaze had grown to more than 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) and spot fires from the main blaze had jumped the Klamath River, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Happy Camp Division of the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger District has 11 total confirmed fires, ranging from 1/10th of an acre to 50 acres, Smith said.

“Weather conditions are driving active fire behavior on some fires, notably the Elliott, Malone, and Titus Fires,” she added.

There weren’t any immediate reports of injuries or homes burned Tuesday night. However, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders for several areas, including one south of Hamburg, a riverside community of around 100 people.

State Route 96 also was closed.

The Head Fire was burning near the site of the McKinney Fire, which began on July 29 of last year. That fire started in the Klamath National Forest and exploded in size when a thunderstorm created winds up to 50 mph (80 kph). It reduced much of Klamath River, a scenic community of about 200 people, to ash and killed four people, including two who may have been trying to flee the flames. Their bodies were found inside a charred vehicle in the driveway of a home.

A slew of other lightning-caused fires were reported Tuesday in Northern California, including in Mendocino County, Shasta-Trinity National Forest and the Tahoe area, although most were small and quickly contained, fire officials said.

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