A fast-moving brush fire cut off evacuation routes and trapped about 150 people in the Sierra National Forest in California, prompting a military helicopter rescue, authorities have said.
The Creek Fire consumed more than 14,500 hectares (36,000 acres) and threatened numerous mountain communities after igniting on Friday and exploding on Saturday, authorities said.
Military helicopters rescued at least 63 people from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, which is about 70km (45 miles) from the city of Fresno. Two people were seriously injured, while 10 had moderate wounds, according to the Fresno Fire Department.
Photo from the cockpit of a @CalGuard Chinook minutes ago rescuing people trapped by the #CreekFire So proud of our National Guard pilots and crews. Thoughts with those affected by this unfolding disaster. pic.twitter.com/GDV9J62MBT
— General Daniel Hokanson (@ChiefNGB) September 6, 2020
The Madera County Sheriff’s office said about 150 people were initially trapped at the popular camping destination, and were advised to shelter in place.
“Emergency crews from multiple agencies need to focus on the critical task at hand – rescue of the approximately 150 people sheltering-in-place at Mammoth Pool Boat Launch,” the sheriff’s office said on Facebook, warning people to avoid the area.
California National Guard was using Chinooks in the rescue operation, National Guard Bureau chief General Daniel Hokanson said, tweeting a picture taken from the cockpit of a helicopter showing it surrounded by blazing trees.
Residents of Huntington Lake, Camp Sierra and Big Creek in central California were ordered to evacuate, and portions of Highway 168 were shut down, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said. Shaver Lake was also closed.
Later on Saturday afternoon, evacuation orders were issued for the Kinsman Flat area in North Fork, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said. Deputies were going door-to-door notifying residents of the danger. The Rock Creek and Fish Creek campgrounds were also being evacuated, officials said.
California has been baking with record-breaking temperatures expected over the Labor Day weekend, bringing dangerous fire weather conditions.
The high temperatures come as the state is recovering from another heatwave in mid-August and devastating wildfires that have burned some 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) in the last three weeks.
Al Jazeera and news agencies