“We’ve made multiple attempts the past couple of days trying to get to those remote camp sites,” Army National Guard Col. David Hall told NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday. “Weather and the smoke are cooperating with us better, and we’re going to keep working tirelessly … until we get out as many people as we can.”
Dozens of people, including hikers and campers, still couldn’t leave the forest by themselves because fire had blocked paths out, Fresno County fire officials said Monday night. People were taking refuge in four locations.
As of Tuesday morning, park visitors waiting to be rescued were not in immediate danger, but they would eventually be at risk if the fire grows, Hall told “Today.”
The Creek Fire has forced evacuations in Madera and Fresno counties. The fire is an “unprecedented disaster” for Fresno County, US Forest Service Supervisor Dean Gould said Monday, adding that while major wildfires have occurred in the area before, this fire is the “most aggressive of any of those.”
California wildfires have burned more than 2.2 million acres this year
Three groups of fires largely triggered by lightning last month in Northern California — the SCU, CZU and LNU lightning complex fires — are mostly contained after collectively burning more than 858,000 acres.
Wind gusts of 30 to 55 mph are possible in parts of California on Wednesday, CNN meteorologists said.
“Wind like this will fuel (fires) and move them along. If you get evacuation notices today, you need to pay attention to them. These fires will be moving very, very quickly,” CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said.
That is California’s highest one-year number of burned acres in recorded history, Cal Fire said. The state hasn’t yet reached what is typically the heart of its fire season, when the notorious Santa Ana winds blow hot, dry air down from inland mountain ranges, adding fuel to an already dangerous recipe for fire.
A utility has intentionally shut power to some customers because of fire risk
While firefighters battle flames and rescue people from dangerous areas, a utility is temporarily shutting electricity service for tens of thousands of customers.
Fire threat closes national forests
“Most of California remains under the threat of unprecedented and dangerous fire conditions with a combination of extreme heat, significant wind events, dry conditions, and firefighting resources that are stretched to the limit,” the release said.
Full closures impact Stanislaus, Sierra, Inyo, Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests. Sequoia National Forest will be closed as well, but the National Park remains open with no fires allowed and a warning of poor air quality.
Closures mean no hiking, biking, fishing or even taking scenic drives. The Forest Service hopes closures will reduce the potential for fires caused by humans. They will be re-evaluated daily as conditions change.
“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously. Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.
The total acreage burned since the beginning of 2020 is 4,645,058, compared with the 10-year average of 5,680,220 acres at this point of the year, the NIFC said.
CNN’s Sarah Moon, Pierre Mielhan, Cheri Mossburg, Drew Kann and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.