A Labor Day weekend heat wave that sparked new forest fires across California has led the state to set a new record for the number of acres burned as dramatic evacuations continue for what has been dubbed an “unprecedented disaster” becomes.
As of Monday, forest fires have scorched over 2 million acres of land in the Golden State. The crews carried out active rescue operations to save the people surrounded by the flames.
“It’s a little annoying because September and October are historically our worst months for fires,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff told The Associated Press. “It’s usually hot and the fuels really dry out. And we see more of our wind events. “
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Tolmachoff said the new record was so impressive because it was set so early.
The previous record was only set two years ago and included the deadliest fire in the state’s history, the bonfire that roared through Paradise in November 2018, killing 85 people.
Two of the three largest fires in the state’s history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are fighting these fires and about two dozen others in California.
In the central part of the state, the explosive Creek Fire has grown to more than 135,000 acres in just three days after the weekend eruption.
Cal Fire said the flame remains 0% and continues to grow under “extreme fire conditions”.
At least 65 buildings have been destroyed as evacuations remain in the area. Brandon Purcell, Fresno County’s sheriff, told the Fresno Bee Monday the fire was “an unprecedented disaster for Fresno County.”
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Firefighters said Monday night that at least one fatality had been reported in the area from the fire, but officials later told FOX26 that an elderly man collapsed from a medical episode and had nothing to do with the fire.
On Saturday, National Guard rescuers took 214 people to safety in two military helicopters after flames trapped them in a wooded campsite near Mammoth Pool Reservoir. Two people were seriously injured and hospitalized under 12.
On Monday evening, a military helicopter attempted but did not land near Edison Lake to rescue the people caught by the fire, the Fresno Fire Department said on Twitter. The department tweeted, “Military pilots tried bravely to land, but heavy smoke conditions prevented a safe approach. Further efforts will soon be made to evacuate the people trapped in Lake Edison and China Peak using night vision.”
Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Rosamond, a Chinook helicopter pilot, said the Associated Press had poor visibility and winds during the three flights he made during the operation, which began late Saturday and extended well into Sunday got stronger and stronger. Its crew relied on night vision goggles to search for a landing site near a boat launch where flames appeared within 50 feet of the aircraft.
The injured, along with women and children, had priority over the first airlift, which filled both helicopters, he said.
“We started getting information about how many people were out there, how many people to expect, and that number kept growing. So we knew it was a bad situation, ”said Rosamond.
Hundreds of campers were caught in the explosive flame over Labor Day weekend.
Jeremy Remington camped out at Mammoth Pool Reservoir with his family and celebrated his mother’s retirement when they were surrounded by wildfire.
Videos recorded by Remington show them trying unsuccessfully to escape by boat and then being rescued by helicopter. The footage also shows the scorched landscape around them.
Fire hazard is also high in Southern California, where new fires have burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
The US Forest Service decided on Monday to close all eight national forests in the region and close campsites nationwide.
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“Existing fires are extremely flammable, new outbreaks are likely, weather conditions are deteriorating, and we simply do not have the resources to fully control and contain every fire,” said Randy Moore, regional ranger for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service covers California said the AP.
More than 14,000 firefighters are fighting flames in around two dozen forest fires across the state.
There have been 900 forest fires in California since August 15, many of which were triggered by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes in mid-August. At least eight fire deaths have been confirmed and more than 3,300 buildings have been destroyed.
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A fire was started by a gender reveal party, officials said late Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.