More than 200 people were rescued by helicopters overnight into early Sunday after they got trapped by the raging Creek Fire near Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno, California.
The people got trapped at the reservoir at the Sierra National Forest as the rapid-spreading wildfire cut off the only escape route and they were advised to shelter in place, and even jump into the water to avoid the flames.
On Sunday Blackhawk helicopters and at least one Chinook flew to rescue the people surrounded by the blaze and took them to the National Guard base at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
A total of 207 people were airlifted from the Mammoth Pool area to Fresno, Forest Service spokesman Daniel Tune said to KSEE.
At least 20 people were injured in the blaze, some of them critically. Two people stayed behind, refusing to be evacuated.
‘There were several critical patients. Some with broken bones. Some with burns. Many with lacerations and abrasions,’ Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch said.
The Creek fire has burned 45,500 acres and is zero percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said on Sunday.
More than 200 people were rescued by helicopters overnight into early Sunday after they got trapped by the raging Creek Fire near Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno, California. The rescue effort pictured above
On Sunday Blackhawk helicopters and at least one Chinook flew to rescue the people surrounded by the blaze and took them to the National Gard base at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport where they were medically assessed
At least 20 people were injured in the blaze, some of them critically. ‘There were several critical patients. Some with broken bones. Some with burns. Many with lacerations and abrasions,’ Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch said
General Daniel Hokanson of the 29th Chief of the National Guard Bureau praised the rescue effort as ‘simply extraordinary’ sharing a photo from inside one of the rescue helicopters on Sunday
A total of 800 personnel along with 25 engines, five hand crews, three dozers, two helicopters and three air tankers have responded to the blaze.
The National Guard along with the fire and law enforcement agencies from Fresno and Madera counties conducted the rescue operation.
‘Simply extraordinary, lifesaving work by the @CalGuard airlifting more than 200 people to safety overnight from the imminent danger of the #CreekFire The National Guard stands Always Ready, Always There to support our communities and nation in times of need,’ General Daniel Hokanson of the 29th Chief of the National Guard Bureau tweeted Sunday morning with a photo of people backed inside a helicopter.
The fire sparked around 6.45pm PDT on Friday and forced evacuations in Fresno and Madera Counties.
By Sunday the Creek Fire grew to more than 71 square miles. As of early Sunday the blaze is 0 percent contained and the cause is being investigated.
Officials initially said Saturday that more than 150 people were cut off at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Forest. Fire radio traffic indicated that multiple people had sustained burn injuries and others broken bones in the Creek Fire, and were being rescued by helicopter.
The first National Guard Chinook to depart was loaded more than 50 people, with up to 20 of them requiring immediate medical transport, scanner traffic indicated.
In a statement, the Sierra National Forrest said that 53 individuals were initially rescued from the Mammoth Pool boat launch area, and will be evaluated for injuries.
Madera County officials said Sunday over 200 people were evacuated and 20 people were sent to hospitals. Two people refused evacuations
CA Army National Guard Flight Facility shared these images showing CW5 Goding, CW2 Hernandez and WOC Xiong flying into the #creekfire to help rescue stranded personnel on Sunday
General Daniel Hokanson shared this photo Saturday night from the cockpit of a California National Guard Chinook before rescuing people trapped by the Creek Fire
The California National Guard shared video showing dozens of rescued people dismounting from a helicopter to safety in Fresno
A National Guard Chinook arrives to rescue trapped campers in Sierra National Forrest on Saturday. The chopper loaded more than 50 people, with up to 20 of them requiring immediate medical transport, scanner traffic indicated
The Creek fire has burned 45,500 acres and is zero percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said on Sunday
Fresno officials shared this map Sunday of the Creek Fire’s extent
One Twitter user shared horrifying video driving in a car through the Sierra National Forest surrounded by flames on all sides on Saturday. She said a forest ranger led them down the road to safety.
‘A backpacking trip cut short by unforeseen thunder, ash rain, and having to drive through literal fire to evacuate #SierraNationalForest in time,’ she posted.
Lindsey Abbott was camping with her family near Whisky Falls in Madera County when the fire forced them to flee and they got lost, surrounded by the inferno.
‘It was so hot, you feel the flames going through the window,’ she said.
‘Seeing all the fire that had completely covered our main road, I thought, “Man, I don’t know what we are going to do or where we were going to go or how this is going to end,”‘ she added.
A stranger found them and guided them to safety.
On Sunday the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office ordered a mandatory evacuation for the Shaver Lake area from Shaver Lake to Littlefield Road. Earlier evacuations were ordered for all of Huntington Lake, Camp Sierra and Big Creek.
In Madera County evacuations were ordered in Cascadel Woods, Kinsman Flat subdivision, Mammoth Pool, Whisky Falls, Clover Meadow, Arnold Meadows, Minarets, all campgrounds off Minarets Road, all campgrounds off Beasore Road north of Grizzley Road.
Labor Day weekend campers were trapped near Mammoth Pool Reservoir in Sierra National Park on Saturday after the Creek Fire exploded and blocked off escape routes
Smoke from the Creek Fire billows beyond a ridge as seen from Huntington Lake on Saturday
The Creek Fire is threatening a range of mountain resources, including structures, communities and power lines.
The wildfire burning near Shaver Lake exploded to 56 square miles, jumped a river and compromised the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground, national forest spokesman Dan Tune said.
At least 2,000 structures were threatened in the area about 290 miles north of Los Angeles, where temperatures in the city’s San Fernando Valley reached 117 degrees.
Tune said the campers were told to shelter in place until fire crews, aided by water-dropping aircraft, could gain access to the site. Tune said he didn’t know how close the fire was burning to the campsite.
‘All our resources are working to make that escape route nice and safe for them,’ he said.
A sweltering heat wave in California is only compounding the natural crisis the state is seeing as record temperatures this summer and dry lightning sparked dozens of wildfires.
Cal Fire said nearly 12,500 firefighters were battling 22 major fires in the state.
People park their trucks as traffic comes to a stop at Highway CA-168 and Lodge Road on Saturday, the bottom of the ‘four-lane,’ as residents are evacuated near Shaver Lake
Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns on the hills near Shaver Lake Saturday. The fire jumped a ridge and has cut off the only evacuation route from Mammoth Pool
And the heat wave will only continue with temperatures of 125F expected through Monday along with high winds in some areas, which could threaten greater fire danger.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility, warned customers it might cut power on Monday and Tuesday due to the ‘extreme heat’.
PG&E said its potential power shut-offs may impact parts of 17 counties, which would include about 103,000 customers.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared a “Stage 2” power emergency late on Saturday, warning that rotating power outages were possible amid a record heat wave.
A Stage 2 power emergency means the ISO has taken all mitigating actions but can no longer provide its expected energy requirements.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a state of emergency, a proclamation that allows power plants to operate beyond normal limits through the three-day holiday weekend.
A tanker plane is seen fighting the Creek Fire in California on Saturday
Smoke from a wildfire rises into the air near Shaver Lake, California on Saturday. The fires in the Sierra National Forest have prompted an evacuation orders
Traffic comes to a stop at Highway CA-168 and Lodge Road as people are evacuated and roads closed because of a wildfire Saturday in Sierra National Forrest
Smoke from the wildfires over California pictured above Sunday
The state of California was enveloped in heavy smoke last night as the Creek Fire raged
A wildfire that broke out near Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest has prompted evacuation orders as authorities urged people seeking relief from the Labor Day weekend heat wave to stay away from the popular lake
The wildfire burning near Shaver Lake exploded to 56 square miles, jumped a river and compromised the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground
State officials urged Californians to turn off unnecessary appliances and lights to help avoid blackouts from an overwhelmed power grid.
Authorities also asked power generators to delay any maintenance until after the weekend to prevent blackouts like the two nights of rolling outages in mid-August as residents cranked up their air conditioning.
California has seen 900 wildfires since August 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightening strikes. The blazes have burned more than 1.5 million acres (2,343 square miles). There have been eight fire deaths and nearly 3,300 structures destroyed.