SHAVER LAKE, Calif. (AP) — More than 200 people were airlifted to safety after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California’s Sierra National Forest.
The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began late Saturday and continued through the overnight. At least two people were severely injured and 10 more suffered moderate injuries.
The wildfire burning near Shaver Lake exploded to 56 square miles (145 square kilometers), jumped a river and cut off 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 (467 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, where temperatures in the city’s San Fernando Valley reached 117 degrees (47 Celsius).
Tune said the campers were told to shelter in place until fire crews, aided by water-dropping aircraft, could gain access to the site.
The lake 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Fresno is surrounded by thick pine forests and is a popular destination for boating and fishing. Bone-dry conditions and the hot weather fueled the flames.
“Once the fire gets going, it creates its own weather, adding wind to increase the spread,” Tune said.