A fast-moving California wildfire prompted the airlifting of more than 200 people trapped in California’s Sierra National Forest early Sunday.
The rescue used Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters that started late Saturday and went on overnight.
(Photo: California National Guard/Handout via REUTERS)
People are evacuated on a California National Guard Chinook helicopter after the Creek Fire in Mammoth Pool, California, U.S. left them stranded, in this still image obtained by Reuters September 6, 2020.
Damages of Creek Fire at the Sierra National Forest
Fire officials said that the fire started by Friday, and as of Sunday afternoon, wildfire was raging at a dangerous rate. The fire burst to 56 square miles on Saturday, jumped the San Joaquin River, and sealed the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground.
By Sunday morning, at least ten structures were damaged. As of Sunday morning, the fire only had five percent containment. The Creek Fire also threatened at least 2,000 structures in the area 290 miles north of Los Angeles. The fire has exploded to 45,500 acres by Sunday.
The Creek fire has been raging near Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, and Big Creek so far had zero percent containment and has been burning through forested foothills of eastern Fresno County. The wildfire has burned 45,500 acres by Sunday, and the plume soared to more than 50,000 feet.
The area on fire where 200 people were trapped in California’s Sierra National Forest is a popular camping area. According to national forest spokesman Dan Tune, the campers were told to take refuge in place until firefighters can access the site. Thick pine forests surround the popular fishing and boating spot. Hot weather and parched condition fueled the flames.
The rapid spread of fire prompted evacuations near the remote community of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest.
Pacific Gas and Electric announced that customers might cut power starting Tuesday as greater fire danger is expected from high winds and heat.
Ashley Wagner, one of those rescued with her two relatives and a friend, said that a 63-year-old business managed by her aunt and her family history went out in flames.
The Airlift Operation
The first batch of people rescued was from the Mammoth Pool reservoir area, according to Capt. Jason Sanchez of the California National Guard. The evacuees were then triaged at the Fresno airport and taken to Saint Agnes Medical Center and Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno and Clovis Community Medical Center for appropriate medical intervention. Army personnel are finding lodging for uninjured evacuees.
Meanwhile, multiple emergency crews were at the airport waiting for more evacuees on Saturday night. Firefighters, paramedics, army, and aircrew with the National Guard were on standby.
900 Wildfires in California
Since August 15, California has had 900 wildfires triggered by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes. The fires have claimed eight people’s lives, burned 2,343 square miles, and damaged almost 3,300 structures.
UCLA Climate Scientists Daniel Swain’s described the Sierra National Forest Creek Fire on his tweet on Sunday that, “I’m not aware [of] any wildfire-related emergency evacuation airlift anywhere approaching this scale in the United States. Incredible.”
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