Forest / Wild Fire in USA on June 24 2016 04:37 AM (UTC).
On Tuesday, Kern County emergency officials said they would begin allowing residents of several communities to go home. But they cautioned that some were without power and bottled water would be available for residents who choose to return. State Highway 178, which runs through the area and had been closed, was re-opened late Tuesday morning, but some connecting roads were still closed, the U.S. Forest Service said on its InciWeb fire information site. Evacuation orders remain in place for the communities of Squirrel Valley and South Lake, the Kern County Emergency Operations Center said. The blaze erupted Thursday afternoon and spread quickly through several communities south of the lake, driven by high winds, as it roared largely unchecked for two days and forced hundreds of residents from their homes. On Friday, Anglican priest Byron McKaig and his wife, Gladys, were killed in the fire, Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin said in a statement. Kern County fire authorities warned that the death toll could rise as investigators combed through the rubble of homes that went up in flames.
California firefighters Sunday struggled to contain a wildfire that killed at least two people and destroyed some 150 homes as it raced over drought-parched land whipped up by strong winds. The blaze, known as the Ers-kine Fire, is raging in an agricultural and oil region of south-central California. The blaze has spread to nearly 37,000 acres (15,000 hectares), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire) said. Some 1,700 personnel have been assigned to battle the wildfire, which is just 10 percent contained, CAL Fire said on Twitter. At least 75 other homes suffered fire damage, officials said. Unusually high temperatures, bone-dry conditions that make brush and grass flammable, and powerful winds gusting up to 50-60 mph (80- 100 kph) helped spread the flames of a fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the sparsely populated Lake Isabella area of Kern County. Deputies from the Kern County Sheriff's office said they may have found the remains of a third person killed by the fire in the victim's mobile home in the Lake Isabella area. "We've located what we believe are human remains," sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt told reporters Saturday. "We are treating it like a crime scene." Pruitt said the remains were "pretty badly burned." The cause of the fire is still unknown, but if investigators determine that it was intentionally set then the fire deaths will be treated as homicides, Pruitt said. Firefighters are having an especially hard time battling the blaze due to rough hills in the area. "This is very, very steep terrain," CAL Fire Battalion Chief Mike Mohler said in video posted on Facebook, as he pointed toward the smoke. "We're looking at increased winds ... high temperatures, low humidity in the single digits - that makes this a very difficult firefight," Mohler said. The National Weather Service forecast low humidity and a temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, unusually hot for this time of the year in that region of California. Thousands of area residents affected by the fire have been evacuated to shelters run by groups like the American Red Cross. "I've lost everything - all I have is what I've got on," local resident Fred Coleman told CBS 5KPIX television, interviewed at an evacuation center in the town of Kernville. California Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency for the region, allowing aid to be deployed more quickly. Authorities have closed several highways and evacuated two schools and a retirement home in the affected area. California is experiencing a record five-year drought and trees and brush are at risk of igniting from the smallest spark. More than 14 large fires are currently raging in the United States, mostly in the Southwest, where a record heat wave left at least five dead last Sunday.
A massive California wildfire that has already killed two people and destroyed 100 structures was burning out of control on Friday evening as officials said it was possible more victims could be found in the rubble. The so-called Erskine Fire, which broke out on Thursday afternoon in the foothills of Kern County about 42 miles (68 km) northeast of Bakersfield, had mushroomed on Friday to char more than 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares), making it one of the worst in an already intense California fire season. The blaze has also sent three firefighters to the hospital for smoke inhalation and forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes ahead of the flames. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Kern County. "This has been a massive amount of evacuations, people going door to door asking people to leave their homes because it's very dangerous out there," Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told reporters at a Friday evening press conference. Youngblood said two people had been confirmed killed in the inferno and that more fatalities could be discovered once authorities were able to search burned out neighborhoods. "We're gonna go back over the rubble with cadaver dogs," he said. "We don't know if there are other victims who were unable to escape this fire." Fire officials said they had zero containment of the Erskine Fire, which was being driven by high temperatures and bone-dry vegetation from a five-year California drought. "Everything is just working into a perfect storm," Kern County fire Captain Mike Nicholas said in a phone interview. Some 800 firefighters struggled against the fast-moving flames in steep terrain. On Friday, authorities warned the more than 3,000 residents of the community of Lake Isabella on the shore of a reservoir to be prepared to evacuate. Southeast of Lake Isabella, dozens of burned-out homes and car frames could be seen in a neighborhood reduced to a field of mangled metal and collapsed roofs. Two groups of residents picked through the rubble while firefighters worked in the area. The rapidly expanding blaze 150 miles (241 km) north of Los Angeles has destroyed 100 structures, including homes, outbuildings and detached garages, Nicholas said. Another 1,500 structures were threatened. Morgan Rivers, an evacuee from the blaze, told Los Angeles television station KABC she lost the house that belonged to her late grandmother. "It's fully mine now and I just lost it after getting it last year," Rivers told the station. To the south, firefighters were struggling to manage the so-called San Gabriel Complex fire in the foothills of Los Angeles County. As of Friday, it had burned over 5,300 acres (2,144 hectares) of chaparral and short grass, and containment lines were drawn around 30 percent of its perimeter. All evacuation orders have been lifted.
Dozens of homes burned to the ground as a wildfire raged over ridges and tore through rural communities in central California, authorities said. The streaking blaze that destroyed at least 80 homes and other buildings northeast of Bakersfield around Lake Isabella ignited Thursday as many others across the West were calming. Some houses were already little more than embers on the ground, while others were deep in flames. No injuries were reported, but several thousand people were forced to evacuate. "I've never been in a wildland fire where I've seen so many homes burn," Kern County fire Capt. Tyler Townsend said. "It's one of the most devastating I've ever seen." The blaze broke out amid temperatures in the 90s and low humidity, climbing over at least three ridges into hillside neighborhoods, Townsend said. It has burned over 7 square miles, and about 1,500 homes are threatened. Hillside homes along dirt roads were consumed by heavy flames in Squirrel Mountain Valley, a community of about 500 people. Smoky haze could be seen for miles around, and orange flames lit the evening air as planes and helicopters dropped water and retardant. Many of the houses in the area have propane tanks that added to the danger, and some residents were refusing to evacuate, Townsend said. Elsewhere in California, cooler weather helped crews fighting two fires that burned more than 8 square miles of chaparral and brush in the Angeles National Forest and foothill communities northeast of Los Angeles. The fires were partially contained. More than 1,300 homes in Duarte and Azusa were evacuated during the four-day-old blaze, but about half have been cleared for residents to return. Near the border with Mexico, an 11-square-mile fire was partially contained after burning five homes about 40 miles southeast of San Diego. Most evacuees were allowed to go home Thursday. In Colorado, a forest fire near the Wyoming line threatened about 40 cabins after exploding in size to more than 8 square miles, officials said. Shifting winds sent the blaze surging from a single square mile. Trees killed by a beetle infestation fueled the flames in and around Routt National Forest, 140 miles north of Denver and 2 miles from Wyoming. The deadwood made it too dangerous to send in crews to battle the flames, so they were attacking the fire's perimeter, fire information officer Brian Scott said. The weather was cooler, but firefighters were keeping an eye on the sky. There was a chance of thunderstorms that could bring dangerously erratic wind and little rain. "Then it's anybody's guess where those flames will go," Scott said. In eastern Arizona, firefighters managed to corral nearly half of a fire that roared through about 67 square miles of pine, juniper and brush on an Apache Indian reservation. Crews managed to light backfires that drew a "black line" around the south end of the blaze, fire information spokeswoman Rita Baysinger said. "They're really working their hearts out, and I think we've turned a corner," she said. Still, more than 15,000 people in Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low and nearby mountain communities have been told to be ready to evacuate if necessary.