73-year-old wildfire lookout among victims of McKinney fire, officials say

·2 min read
Flames from the McKinney Fire burn beyond firefighters in Klamath National Forest, Calif., on Sunday, July 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Firefighters keep watch over the McKinney fire in Klamath National Forest on July 31. (Noah Berger / Associated Press)

A longtime U.S. Forest Service wildfire lookout is among the four people confirmed to have died in the McKinney fire burning near the California-Oregon border.

Kathy Shoopman, 73, died at her home in the community of Klamath River as a result of the fire, officials with Klamath National Forest said Monday.

"Kathy started her career as a lookout at Baldy Mountain Lookout, west of Happy Camp, in 1974," officials said. "Since then, she has staffed Lake Mountain Lookout, and most recently staffed Buckhorn Lookout, a post she has held since 1993."

A resident of Klamath River for nearly 50 years, she was remembered as a talented artist, gardener and an animal lover, officials said.

As of Monday night, the McKinney fire had charred 60,379 acres and was 55% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. There were 3,528 personnel assigned to the blaze.

"Conditions were sunny, hot, and dry over the incident on Monday," officials with Cal Fire said. "High temperatures ranged from the upper 80s on the ridges to the low 100s in the valley bottoms."

A red flag warning is in effect through Tuesday for wind and relative humidity.

Matt Conklin, an operations section chief with California Interagency Incident Management Team 2, said crews had hand lines, bulldozer lines, roads or a natural barrier around the entire fire.

Conklin and other fire officials continued to be cautiously optimistic about the fire's outlook during a community meeting in Fort Jones on Monday night.

"The fire's looking really good," said Phil Anzo, a Cal Fire unit chief. "This fire is extremely big. Having these lines contained all the way around the fire this early on is pretty amazing. It’s because of the hard work from your local, state and federal firefighters out there on the ground, putting forth 100% of their effort to accomplish this goal."

Officials further loosened restrictions in the fire area earlier Monday as they allowed residents in 12 previously evacuated zones to return to their homes.

Continuously updated information on zones under evacuation orders and warnings can be found at community.zonehaven.com.

As firefighters make progress on the blaze, authorities are continuing to assess structures in the burn area for damage, said Bryan Schenone, director of Siskiyou County's Office of Emergency Services.

"Right now we're in the hazmat side of things, so we're looking through at lot of the debris," Schenone said Monday night. "At last count, there was 86 structures. That's probably going to change tomorrow, and then we had some outbuildings as well, garages, sheds, carports, some of the other buildings."

Highway 96 remains closed in the area, authorities said, adding that they are evaluating conditions each day to determine when the highway will be safe to reopen.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.