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A California Sheriff’s Office is threatening to press charges against an ABC News television news crew after they brought a civilian into the McKinney Fire evacuation zone up in their news van, walked around on private property and found where a victim who had perished in the inferno.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff has accused the news crew of ‘televising the information prior to law enforcement properly processing the scene and notifying the family.’
‘This is unacceptable and disrespectful to fire victims and their families and will NOT be tolerated,’ the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.
The alleged offense occurred during Tuesday night’s World News Tonight broadcast in which chief national correspondent Matt Gutman could be seen walking around the burned remains of a county resident and the home which she said was her uncle’s.
‘My uncle was sitting right there in that chair, I think, that is no longer there,’ she says.
‘Have you heard from your uncle?’ Gutman then asks.
‘No, he died, he had to have died. He lived right there,’ she says, as she pointed to the rubble.
Towards the end of the segment, Gutman reveals how the woman found her uncle.
‘We were with her in the debris just moments ago as they discovered what they believed to be the remains of her Uncle.’
ABC News said in a statement that the crew had permission to visit the site.
‘Officials gave ABC News permission to cross the fire line. A resident gave us permission to be on the property where the house had burned down. … As soon as the residents discovered the body, our team notified law enforcement.’
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office say that the area in which the report was filmed is being treated as a crime scene with the fire’s ’cause and origin still under investigation.’
California law allows press access to disaster scenes, but active crime scenes are excluded.
The sheriff’s office have stated that the home featured in the broadcast had not been processed by investigators or search teams when the ABC crew were on site.
When officials were finally in the area, they found a deceased person on the property that ‘media had disturbed.’
‘Since we are actively checking structures and properties for deceased individuals, and conducting various law enforcement investigations, it is imperative media respect the necessary restrictions on private property and stay on public property that has been cleared for media access,’ the sheriff’s office said.
‘We haven’t determined whether we’re going to press charges,’ Amy Travis, a spokesperson for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Services, said.
The massive California fire comes as more than half of the country is now experiencing some form of drought for the fourth week in a row with no region of the country free from the harsh conditions.
A combination of extreme heat coupled with low amounts of rainfall is also pulling moisture from plants and soil resulting in tinder dry conditions, ripe for wildfires.
Wildfire season has become longer and blazes more intense, scorching temperatures have broken records and lakes are shriveling.
While it may come as no surprise that the western portion of the country including California is enveloped in a drought which has lasted for several years, even the northeast of the country is now experiencing a ‘flash drought’.
More than half the country is in some level of drought for the fourth week in a row, the US Drought Monitor reported on Thursday
Wildfire season has also become longer and blazes more intense, scorching temperatures have broken records and lakes are shriveling. A Billings 4AJ helicopter makes a water drop at the Oak Fire near Mariposa, California last month
The states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine are all experiencing drought.
‘Short-term moderate and severe drought continued to expand, especially in the New York City area, New Jersey, and New England, where rainfall was sparse and temperatures were a few degrees above normal,’ the Drought Monitor said.
Residents in northeastern states are being asked to be prudent with how they are using water.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont asked residents to use less water in mid-July in the hope of prolonging the drought.
There is no sight of the drought abating any time soon with ‘temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above normal across the Northeast and New England on Thursday and Frida afternoon, where it will feel like the upper 90s and 100s,’ according to CNN.
Los Padres Hotshots firefighters seen last week battling California’s largest wildfire of the summer near Yosemite National Park
A combination of extreme heat coupled with low amounts of rainfall is also pulling moisture from plants and soil resulting in tinder dry conditions, ripe for wildfires
Similar conditions to those in the Northeast are also being repeated in the Midwest and South, but there are also incidents of extreme rainfall resulting in flash flooding in Missouri and Kentucky.
On Thursday, the suburbs of St. Louis were under a flash flood warning as several inches fell in just one hour.
Scientists say that as climate change continues and the planet warms, there is likely to be extreme conditions at both ends of the spectrum.
In other parts of the country, the drought has also continued to expand both in the Southern Plains and in Texas where temperatures are warmer than normal.
‘Drought impacts across Texas ranged from crop failure to water supply problems, in one case from a well failure,’ the Drought Monitor reported.
Despite the area being familiar with triple digit temperatures, cattle ranchers have been forced to sell off livestock and sent them to the slaughter ahead of schedule with weather conditions so bad that they are not able to be looked after properly and be kept healthy.
Flames make an upslope run at the McKinney Fire, in the Klamath National Forest near Yreka, California, on Tuesday. At least four people are now known to have died in the wildfire
River-front property in the community of Klamath River lies in ruins after it burned in the McKinney Fire in the Klamath National Forest, northwest of Yreka, California, last week
Only one region of the country saw conditions improve. The Texas Panhandle and eastwards into Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Mississippi, together with parts of Tennessee experienced heavy rainfall leading to an improvement in conditions.
In California firefighters made gains against the state’s deadliest and largest wildfire of the year, but forecasters warned on Thursday that spiking temperatures and plunging humidity levels could create conditions for further growth.
After five days of no containment, the McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County near the Oregon border was 10% surrounded by Wednesday evening. Bulldozers and hand crews were making progress carving firebreaks around much of the rest of the blaze, fire officials said.
At the fire’s southeastern corner, evacuation orders for sections of Yreka, home to about 7,800 people, were downgraded to warnings, allowing residents to return home but with a caution that the situation remained dangerous.
About 1,300 people remained under evacuation orders, officials said at a community meeting Wednesday evening.
The fire didn’t advance much midweek, following several days of brief but heavy rain from thunderstorms that provided cloudy, damper weather. But as the clouds clear and humidity levels drops in the coming days, the fire could roar again, authorities warned.
‘This is a sleeping giant right now,’ said Darryl Laws, a unified incident commander on the blaze.
A dramatic water line can be seen behind boats docked on the marina at Lake Mead, Nevada last week. Water levels in Lake Mead are at the lowest level since April 1937 when the reservoir was being filled for the first time
Buoys that read ‘No Boats’ lay on cracked dry earth where water once was at Lake Mead, Nevada. Almost the entire American west is in the grip of a major drought
A ‘bathtub ring’, a white band of mineral deposits showing previous water levels, is visible at Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at the Nevada and Arizona state border
A previously sunken boat sits on dried land that was once underwater at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Boulder City, Nevada
Weekend temperatures could reach triple digits as the region dries out again, said meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis with the National Weather Service office in Medford, Oregon.
‘The heat, the dry conditions, along with afternoon breezes, that´s the kind of thing that could keep the fire pretty active,’ he said Thursday.
The blaze broke out last Friday and has charred nearly 92 square miles (238 square kms) of forestland, left tinder-dry by drought.
2,000 residents have been evacuated, more than 100 homes and other buildings have burned and four bodies have been found, including two in a burned car in a driveway.
The blaze was driven at first by fierce winds ahead of a thunderstorm cell. More storms earlier this week proved a mixed blessing.
Destroyed property is left in its wake as the Oak Fire chews through the forest near Midpines, northeast of Mariposa, California
A drenching rain Tuesday dumped up to 3 inches on some eastern sections of the blaze but most of the fire area got next to nothing, said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst.
Fires are burning in Montana, Idaho and Nebraska and have destroyed homes and threaten communities.
Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
California has seen its largest, most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the last five years.
In 2018, a massive blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills destroyed much of the city of Paradise and killed 85 people, the most deaths from a U.S. wildfire in a century.
Wildfires burn in 14 states across U.S.
Seven new large fires were reported on Wednesday: four in Texas, two in Oregon and one in Montana. Sixty-two large fires and complexes have burned 1,640,278 acres in 14 states.
Overall, there are currently large wildfires in the states of Alaska (27), Texas (6), Montana (6), California (4), Idaho (4), Oregon (4), Arizona (3), Nevada (2), Wyoming (2), New Mexico (1), Utah (1), Nebraska (1), Washington (1) and Arkansas (1).
California and much of the rest of the West is in drought and wildfire danger is high, with the historically worst of the fire season still to come. Fires are burning in Montana, Idaho and Nebraska and have destroyed homes and threaten communities.
Flames burn inside a tree along Highway 96 which remains closed due to the McKinney Fire in Klamath National Forest, California
A search and rescue canine leaves a home leveled by the McKinney Fire earlier this week
Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. California has seen its largest, most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the last five years. In 2018, a massive blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills destroyed much of the city of Paradise and killed 85 people, the most deaths from a U.S. wildfire in a century.
The blaze in the Klamath National Forest broke out last Friday and has charred nearly 92 square miles of forestland, left tinder-dry by drought. More than 100 homes and other buildings have burned and four bodies have been found, including two in a burned car in a driveway.
At an evacuation center Wednesday, Bill Simms said that three of the four victims were his neighbors. Two were a married couple who lived up the road.
Sheriff’s deputies search a scorched residence following the McKinney Fire on Tuesday
‘I don’t get emotional about stuff and material things,’ Simms said. ‘But when you hear my next-door neighbors died … that gets a little emotional.’
Their names haven’t been officially confirmed, which could take several days, said Courtney Kreider, a spokesperson with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.
Simms, a 65-year-old retiree, bought his property six years ago as a second home with access to hunting and fishing. He went back to check on his property Tuesday and found it was destroyed.
Timber walks past the remains of a lodge that burned in the McKinney Fire. The property owner, whose adjacent home survived the blaze, was surveying damage
‘The house, the guest house and the RV were gone. It´s just wasteland, devastation,’ Simms said. He found the body of one of his two cats, which he buried. The other cat is still missing. He was able to take his two dogs with him to the shelter.
Harlene Schwander, 82, lost the home she had just moved into a month ago to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law. Their home survived but her house was torched.
Schwander, an artist, said she only managed to grab a few family photos and some jewelry before evacuating. Everything else – including her art collection – went up in flames.
‘I’m sad. Everybody says it was just stuff, but it was all I had,’ she said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Johnson carries remains of a McKinney Fire victim from a destroyed home in Klamath National Forest