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Lightning strikes ignite cluster of Northern California wildfires

A cluster of fires burning in steep and dry terrain in Northern California has spread to more than 1,100 acres, forcing evacuations in rural areas of Trinity and Humboldt counties.

The U.S. Forest Service, which is managing the response, said lightning strikes from a thunderstorm ignited a dozen fires in the Six Rivers National Forest on Friday. Firefighters reduced those burns to eight through initial attacks and officials named the remaining blazes the Six Rivers Lightning Complex.

Timber, debris from logging and dead trees are fueling the fires, which burned with zero percent containment, according to an incident update at 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service in Eureka said the weather may help firefighters battle the blazes over the next few days.

“Monsoon moisture,” which was in part responsible for the thunderstorms that hit the region last week, has cleared and shut down the possibility of lightning, said meteorologist James White. A deep marine layer along the coast is expected to bring lower than normal temperatures in the 80s, he said.

“Wind is pretty calm, so no big concerns there,” White said. “It’s not critical conditions. So thankfully, it’s good firefighting weather.”

Evacuations have been ordered near the communities of Willow Creek and Salyer.

In Trinity County, those areas include Salyer Loop down to the bridge at Highway 299, Salyer Heights, Orchard Lane and Campbell Ridge Road. An evacuation center remains open at Trinity Valley Elementary School. A map shows evacuations in Humboldt County on both sides of State Route 299.

The Forest Service anticipates additional evacuations from the Six Rivers Lightning Complex over the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile, firefighters continued to fight the deadly McKinney fire in Siskiyou County. As of Sunday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported that the blaze has burned more than 60,200 acres and was 40% contained.

At least four people have died in the fire since it ignited July 29 near Highway 99 and McKinney Creed Road, southwest of the Klamath River.

A large area west of Interstate 5 near Yreka up to the Oregon border remains under evacuation orders.

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