California Creek Fire: Helicopters Rescue More Than 200 Trapped Hikers

by Chris Haney

More than 200 people were rescued by helicopters early Sunday after getting trapped by the raging Creek Fire near Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno, California. Wildfires quickly cut off hikers only exit route trapping them at the reservoir in Sierra National Forest. The hikers were told to shelter in place, and to even jump in the water to avoid the flames.

Helicopter crews, including Blackhawks and a Chinook, helped rescue the people surrounded by the fires. The survivors all went to the National Guard base at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. 

207 people were airlifted from the Mammoth Pool area to Fresno, Forest Service spokesman Daniel Tune said. Additionally, around 20 people were injured in the fires, some of them critically. However, two people chose to stay behind since they refused to be evacuated.

Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch said, “There were several critical patients. Some with broken bones. Some with burns. Many with lacerations and abrasions.”

45,500 acres have burned so far according to the U.S. Forest Service. And yet, zero percent of the fire has been contained. The National Guard worked with fire and law enforcement agencies from Fresno and Madera counties to rescue the hikers.

General Daniel Hokanson, the 29th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, took to Twitter to share some of the scenes during the fire rescues.

The fire started spreading around 6.45pm PDT on Friday and forced evacuations in Fresno and Madera Counties. By Sunday the Creek Fire grew to more than 71 square miles.

California Governor Declares State of Emergency

The Creek Fire is a threat to a range of mountain resources, including structures, communities and power lines.

A record-setting heat wave in California is making the natural crisis even worse, and dry lightning has sparked dozens of wildfires. Cal Fire said nearly 12,500 firemen were fighting 22 major fires around the state.

In addition, officials expect 125 degree temperatures and high wind speeds to some areas. Further, officials worry of even greater fire danger because of the conditions.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility, warned customers it might cut power on Monday and Tuesday due to the “extreme heat.” PG&E said its potential power shut-offs could effect up to 17 counties, which includes around 103,000 customers.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared a “Stage 2” power emergency late on Saturday. That means the ISO has taken all mitigating actions, but can no longer provide its expected energy requirements.

On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. That allows power plants to operate beyond normal limits through the three-day holiday weekend. State officials asked Californians to turn off unnecessary appliances and lights to help avoid blackouts from an overwhelmed power grid.

California has seen 900 wildfires since August 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightening strikes. The blazes have burned more than 2,343 square miles of land. The wildfires have killed eight people so far, as well as destroying nearly 3,300 structures.

[H/T Daily Mail]