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60 Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Rescued from Fire Near Oregon Border

Fires have killed at least four people so far; backpackers face extensive closures.

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At least 60 Pacific Crest Trail hikers were rescued near the border of California and Oregon over the weekend after the fast-growing McKinney Fire left them mired in smoke, officials said. 

When the rescue team arrived to evacuated the hikers, visibility was as low as 20 feet. In response to the fire, Governor Newsome declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County on Saturday. Some 110 miles of the PCT are closed, and a section of Highway 96 is also shuttered due to fire activity.

“The difference with the hikers on the trail is they’re not as mobile,” Jackson County Sheriff Public Information Officer Aaron Lewis told the Seattle Times. “[We] went to trailheads near roads and started gathering hikers. They weren’t necessarily in immediate danger.” 

Fires can travel upwards of 12 miles per hour, outpacing even quickly-moving humans. This can make it particularly dangerous for hikers to travel near active fires. 

The cause of the McKinney Fire is still under investigation, but dry fuels likely contributed to its quick expansion. According to an InciWeb fire report, the weekend was also packed full of dry lightning strikes, which started numerous new fires in the area ranging from less than an acre to 12 acres in size.

PCT hikers
Credit: Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
PCT hikers post-rescue

The McKinney Fire has only been active for 4 days, and it’s already California’s biggest fire of the year. As of Tuesday morning, the fire is more 55,000 acres in size and 0% contained. Over 2,000 residents are under evacuation orders, while 10 helicopters, 62 fire engines, 29 bulldozers, 14 water tenders, and 16 crews have been dispatched to the area. Some structures have been torched by the fire, but the extent of the damage isn’t yet clear. 

At least four people have lost their lives to the McKinney Fire. On Sunday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office announced it had found two bodies inside of a vehicle that was located on a residential highway. 

Many rescued hikers traveled from road junction 1055 to Seattle Bar in Applegate, where they were able to catch a bus to Medford or Ashland. But their detours may not be over yet: would-be thru-hikers also face fire closures in Oregon, where the southernmost section of trail is closed. A 42-mile section of trail is also shut down between Bend and Crater Lake after 19 new fires erupted over the weekend. Officials reported almost 900 lightning strikes over the course of 24 hours, resulting in numerous evacuations. A pending closure is expected to take effect near mile 1875, and another closure is in effect from mile 2027 to 2048.7. Those who violate trail closures could face $5,000-10,000 fines. 

Hikers can stay up-to-date with PCT trail closures here


From 2022