Two people have been found dead amid the huge wildfire sweeping through northern California which has forced thousands from their homes.

The bodies of the dead pair were found inside a car in the driveway of a property caught in the blaze.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue told ABC News the two seemed to be trying to escape the area.

The McKinney Fire has burned more than 52,000 acres, making it California’s largest this year.

The identities of the two dead people are not being released until their families have been notified.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency over the fire, which began on Friday afternoon before rapidly exploding in size due to a combination of dry fuel after a drought, strong winds and lightning strikes.

Around 650 firefighters are battling to contain the fire, officials say, but with little success. Sheriffs said on Sunday evening that it was “0% contained”.

As a result, more than 2,000 inhabitants of the area around the Klamath National Forest are being forced to evacuate their homes. Rescue teams have been aiding hikers who had been on the national park’s trails.

Map showing the location of the McKinney Fire in northern California.

The nearby town of Yreka – home to several thousand people – has not been evacuated, and remains outside the fire’s grasp.

Vina Swenson, who has lived in Yreka for over 20 years, told the Los Angeles Times that firefighters were cutting down bushes, shrubs and grass near her home.

“It’s reassuring that they’re keeping us safe, but the fact that they’re clearing brush here makes me think they expect the fire to reach here,” she said.

‘I just saw it explode’

Harlene Althea Schwander, an artist, had only moved into her new home near the fire’s starting point a month ago, and had not yet unpacked everything.

“Three generations of beautiful things, all of my paintings… they’re all gone,” she told Reuters.

“When I saw it coming over from the community centre, and I just saw it explode in the dark. I knew the house was gone,” she said. “The fire department came and told me, ‘just leave now.'”

There was one piece of good news however – Ms Schwander’s daughter-in-law had grabbed her jewellery before they fled.

Captain Joseph Amador, from Mariposa County’s fire service, told CBS News conditions are “extreme”, but firefighters are trained and prepared to deal with this year’s wildfires. “We’re ready for it”, he added.

Despite its vast size, the McKinney fire is far smaller than last year’s Dixie fire, which tore though hundreds of thousands of acres and became the second-largest wildfire ever recorded in California.

But the state is seeing frequent large fires during its months-long fire season. The Oak Fire, far to the south near Yosemite National Park, is still ablaze after more than a week – though it has now been brought under control and is no longer growing.

Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires.

Source: BBC News

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