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Creek Fire in California creates clouds of smoke up to 50,000 feet, campers saved



An explosive wildfire in California that saw dozens rescued from a campground by a military helicopter has created massive clouds of smoke that stretch into the sky.

The Creek Fire exploded near Shaver Lake on Saturday and scorched about 36,000 acres when it jumped a river near the lake, endangering the only road into Mammoth Pool Campground.

The rapidly spreading fire raised clouds of smoke into the sky as authorities urged people to seek relief from the Labor Day weekend heat wave to evacuate areas in the Sierra National Forest.

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The National Weather Service̵

7;s (NWS) Oakland Center Weather Service Unit stated that “multiple aircraft” reported that smoke cloud tops were over 50,000 feet.

The large cloud of smoke from the Creek Fire in California can be seen in satellite imagery starting Saturday, September 5, 2020.

The large cloud of smoke from the Creek Fire in California can be seen in satellite imagery starting Saturday, September 5, 2020.
(NWS)

“Several” lightning strikes have also been detected in the area.

A passenger on a flight from San Jose to Las Vegas also posted photos from the plane of the giant clouds created by the fire.

Satellite imagery also captured a so-called “pyrocumulonimbus cloud”. According to NWS, a pyrocumulus cloud forms when there is sufficient moisture and atmospheric instability above the “intense heat source”.

Huntington Lake can be seen in the foreground as the Creek Fire burns in the distance about 35 miles northeast of Fresno, California on Saturday, September 5, 2020.

Huntington Lake can be seen in the foreground as the Creek Fire burns in the distance about 35 miles northeast of Fresno, California on Saturday, September 5, 2020.
(Eric Paul Zamora / The Fresno Bee via AP)

“While these clouds are not common, they can get large enough to cause lightning and possibly light rainfall,” notes the NWS.

The explosive storms can form during a fire when heat and moisture are released from the plants, even if the fuel is relatively dry.

Towering clouds of smoke from the Creek Fire can be seen on Saturday, September 5, 2020.

Towering clouds of smoke from the Creek Fire can be seen on Saturday, September 5, 2020.
(US Forest Service)

The storms can inject particles up to 10 miles into the air, creating dry lightning bolts. The rising air can also cause intense updrafts that draw in air at a rate that creates strong winds.

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Time-lapse satellite images from the NWS forecast bureau in Las Vegas show the fire spreading and the clouds of smoke growing.

According to InciWeb, around 450 firefighters are fighting the fire. Mandatory evacuations are provided for the Big Creek, Huntington Lake, and Cascadel Woods communities as Highway 168 is closed 2.7 miles east of Prather.

The fire broke out on Friday evening. Crews worked all night, but on Saturday morning authorities issued evacuation orders for communities around the lake, urging people to get out of the heat of Labor Day weekend to stay away from the popular lake.

A Ventura County family observes smoke from the Creek Fire from the shores of Shaver Lake, northeast of Fresno, California on Saturday, September 5, 2020.

A Ventura County family observes smoke from the Creek Fire from the shores of Shaver Lake, northeast of Fresno, California on Saturday, September 5, 2020.
(Eric Paul Zamora / The Fresno Bee via AP))

The Fresno Fire Department announced early Sunday that 63 people were rescued by military helicopters and taken to Fresno Yosemite International Airport after the fire on Saturday in a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest.

Smoke from the Creek Fire wells behind a ridge by Huntington Lake on Saturday, September 5, 2020 in Huntington Lake, California.

Smoke from the Creek Fire wells behind a ridge by Huntington Lake on Saturday, September 5, 2020 in Huntington Lake, California.
(Eric Paul Zamora / The Fresno Bee via AP)

Of the 63 people rescued, two were seriously injured, 10 were moderately injured, and 51 others had minor or no injuries, according to a tweet from the Fresno Fire Department.

Army General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said on Twitter that the California National Guard is conducting a “big” rescue with a CH-47 Chinook helicopter lifting people trapped in the Creek Fire.

Hokanson shared a photo from the cockpit of the aircraft while it was conducting rescue operations.

“So proud of our National Guard pilots and crews. Thoughts for those affected by this disaster,” he tweeted.

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At least 2,000 buildings were threatened in the area about 290 miles north of Los Angeles, where temperatures reached 117 degrees in the city’s San Fernando Valley on Saturday.

National forest spokesman Dan Tune told the Associated Press that campers had been instructed to seek shelter until the fire department, assisted by waterdrop planes, could gain access to the site. Tune said he didn’t know how close the fire was to the campsite.

“All of our resources are working to make this escape route beautiful and safe for them,” he said.

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Surrounded by thick pine forests, 35 miles northeast of Fresno, the lake is a popular boating and fishing destination. Bone-dry conditions and hot weather fueled the flames.

“Once the fire starts, it creates its own weather and adds wind to increase spread,” said Tune.

Brie Stimson of Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.




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