McKinney Fire is the first major wildfire to impact the PCT in 2022

On Friday July 29th, the McKinney Fire started along the Klamath River upstream and east of Seiad Valley, California.  Threatening communities and homes along the river, the fire grew rapidly due to the dry, hot conditions amongst the rugged terrain of far Northern California.  As the fire grew, it sent a large plume of smoke into the skies south of the Siskiyou Crest and clearly visible from the PCT’s route as the trail traverses the Crest along the border between California and Oregon.

The McKinney Fire as viewed from the south by an automated camera near Yreak, California. Photo by CalFire.

For the many PCT hikers on the Crest at the time, the scene would have been unnerving and quite frightening.  When cell service allowed, some hikers made calls to family and local authorities in an attempt to get information on the threat they were facing.  Others simply activated the SOS function on their satellite messengers.  As a result, the Jackson County sheriff’s office and Search and Rescue mobilized to evacuate hikers north from the Crest and into Southern Oregon near the Applegate Reservoir.  Jackson County officials reached out to the Medford, Oregon-based Rogue Valley Transportation District which utilized two RVTD buses to transport hikers north to the Rogue Valley.

As this was happening, staff from the Klamath National Forest was coordinating with PCTA staff to publish information about the impending PCT closure along the Siskiyou Crest.  While as of this writing the McKinney Fire has yet to reach the PCT, there are other fires in the area. Prompt action by officials from a variety of agencies ensured that a number of necessary steps were taken to exercise caution.

Currently, roughly 110 miles of the PCT is closed between Etna Summit in Northern California to Mount Ashland in Southern Oregon.

PCTA would like to extend a sincere thank you to our partners at the USFS for their timely response, as well as Jackson County Search and Rescue and the Rogue Valley Transportation District for acting fast to ensure that hikers on the PCT were out of harm’s way.  In addition, there are undoubtedly other individuals who supported hikers particularly in the towns of Etna, Seiad Valley, and Ashland.  Lastly, please know that the communities affected by the fire are in our thoughts and well wishes to all those who are working hard in tough conditions to suppress the McKinney Fire.

As a reminder to all those who use the PCT in the summer: it is critically important to stay informed about local fire restrictions as well as the potential for closures along the trail. For the latest information and updates, visit our Trail Closures page for the McKinney Fire.

If you are one of the hikers evacuated during this incident and would like to share your story, or if you can connect the PCTA to someone who was evacuated, please contact Scott Wilkinson.

Author: Ian Nelson

Ian Nelson has been the PCTA’s Regional Representative for Northern California/Southern Oregon for more than 15 years. He is based in the beautiful Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon and enjoys exploring the many wilderness areas in the region.