More than 200 people were airlifted to safety in the early hours of Sunday morning after being trapped in a fast-spreading wildfire at a popular camping area in the Sierra National Forest, California. It was one of the many fires that raged, amid record temperatures, that ravaged the state.
The California Office of Emergency Services said the Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used in rescue operations that began late on Saturday and continued throughout the night. At least two people were seriously injured and ten others were moderately wounded. The Madeira County Police Office said two campers refused to be rescued and remained behind.
A picture posted by the National Guard on Twitter showed at least 20 people crammed into a helicopter, squatting on the ground, clutching their belongings. In another photo taken on the ground from the cockpit, the hills with dense trees caught fire surrounding the plane.
The forest fire, dubbed the Creek Fire, broke out on Friday, and by noon on Saturday it had exploded over an area of 145 square kilometers, leaping onto the San Joaquin River and cutting the only road to Mammoth Bull Camp, National Forest spokesman Dan Tonne said. At least 2,000 buildings were threatened in the area 467 kilometers north of Los Angeles, as temperatures in the city’s San Fernando Valley reached 47 degrees Celsius.
Tion said the two camps have been told to take cover so that firefighting teams, with the help of water drop planes, can reach the site.
The lake is 56 kilometers northeast of Fresno surrounded by dense pine forests and is a popular boating and fishing destination. The dry bones and hot weather sparked flames.
“Once the fire breaks out, it creates its own weather and adds wind to its spread,” Ton said.
Juliana Park recorded a video of flames on both sides of her car as she and others were running across a mountain path.
“The backpacking trip was interrupted by unexpected thunder, ash rain and having to go through actual fires to evacuate #SierraNationalForest in time,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Grateful to the SNF ranger who led us down … I wish we had her name.”
The backpacking trip was interrupted by unexpected thunder, gray rain and having to go through an actual fire to evacuate # SierraNationalForest right on time. Grateful to the SNF ranger who led us down … I wish we had her name. #CreekFire @ mercnews sfchronicle @ ABC7 KTVU pic.twitter.com/37Ys7XGJ2a
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Lindsay Abbott and her family were guided to safety by a stranger who followed him from a campsite near Whiskey Falls.
“It was very hot, and you could feel the flame going through the window,” she told KFSN-TV in Fresno.
Ashley Wagner was among those rescued, along with two of her relatives and a friend. They are trapped in Logan Meadow behind the Wagner Shop, a 63-year-old business run by her aunt that has been destroyed.
Watch | Dozens of evacuees exit from a California National Guard helicopter:
“The history of my family is on fire,” she told ABC30 Fresno.
In Southern California, a fire in the foothills of Yucaiba east of Los Angeles led to the issuance of evacuation orders for eastern parts of the city of 54,000 as well as many mountain communities. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said the fire burned at least 11 square kilometers of trees and trees.
Bob Funzi nervously watched the fire racing through the hills near his remote home on a winding road.
“If this is sweeping, it comes to my back door,” he told KABC-TV on Saturday. The problem with this is that there is no easy access for firefighting crews.
The fire was only contained 5 percent on Sunday morning.
In eastern San Diego County, the Valley fire broke out on Saturday afternoon and fire officials warned that the fire was burning “at an alarming rate”. By Sunday morning, it had destroyed at least 10 buildings after burning 16 square kilometers and prompted evacuations near the remote Alpine community in the Cleveland National Forest. There was no containment.
Cal Fire said more than 14,800 firefighters are fighting 23 major fires in the state. Despite the heat, firefighters managed to contain two major fires in coastal Monterey County.
Officials warn of a possible power outage
California has seen 900 wildfires since August 15, many of which started with an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes. The fires burned more than 600,000 hectares. Eight fires killed and destroyed nearly 3,300 buildings.
The heat wave is expected to send hot temperatures across most of California through Monday. Meteorologists said temperatures in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles reached 47 degrees Celsius on Saturday and could be hotter on Sunday.
The officials urged people to conserve electricity to ease pressure on the state’s power grid and avoid blackouts.
“These disruptions were avoided on Friday and Saturday, in large part due to individual conservation efforts, but more conservation efforts are needed today,” Gov.’s office said in a statement on Sunday.
The creek fire forced the closure of a 915 MW hydropower plant in Madeira province, further restricting the network’s resources, the statement said.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility, warned customers on Saturday that it may cut electricity starting Tuesday due to expected high winds and heat that could create a greater fire risk. Some of the state’s biggest and deadliest fires in recent years have been triggered by downed power lines and other utility equipment.
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