With the extreme heat roasting California on Monday, firefighters faced another difficult day battling new wildfires that have burned homes, camouflaged cities and forced thousands of people to flee.
The fires, which burned to the Sierra Nevada forests near the Mexican border, spread a curtain of smoke across much of the state as weather forecasters warned Los Angeles residents that the San Francisco Bay Area would be another day of stifling heat and dangerous expect bad air.
The largest new devastating fire, the Creek Fire, burned out of control on 79,000 acres in Fresno County on Sunday evening. Residents and local firefighters said the fire raged through canyons and destroyed much of the tiny community of Big Creek.
“Cell phones are down, all landlines are down,” said Chief Donnelly. “My deputy boss has to go up a ski lift to get a cell tower. It’s really hard to know what’s going on. “
The area is a popular summer hideaway for cabins, scout camps, and campsites, but it became a fiery trap over the weekend. More than 200 people had to be rescued with air from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir. Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters have plucked the evacuees, around 20 of whom sustained injuries such as burns, broken bones and cuts.
Another 20 people waiting to be rescued Sunday night were evacuated from the reservoir by ground teams, Madera County’s Sheriff Tyson Pogue said.
Firefighters elsewhere in California tried to contain new flames:
A 7,000 acre fire in San Bernardino County, Southern California, called a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” according to Cal Fire, the state fire department. A family was using the device at a gender unveiling ceremony when it ignited four feet of dry grass. (A 2018 wildfire in Arizona was also sparked during a gender reveal party.) Cal Fire Capt.Bennet Milloy said Monday morning that the family called 911, stayed at the scene, and provided photos to investigators. Charges would be considered, he said, but their scope would not be determined until the fire was extinguished.
A 9,850 acre fire in the Cleveland National Forest east of San Diego that destroyed 11 buildings by Sunday evening.
The fires have exacerbated the pain of an already brutal forest fire season in the west. More than 1.6 million acres have been burned in California alone.
Firefighters in Montana tried to assess the damage from the Bridger Foothills Fire, which exploded near Bozeman over the weekend, burning at least 7,000 acres and destroying an as-yet-unknown number of homes.
Ash fell from the sky around Denver on Sunday when a huge wildfire burned north of Rocky Mountain National Park, forcing park officials to shut down a popular sightseeing road. Hot, dry weather in the area was expected to give way to an early-season snow storm on Tuesday, raising hopes for relief from the fires.
Christina Morales Contribution to reporting.