Southern California wildfire kills 2, destroys 35,000 acres
A fast-moving fire in Southern California has killed at least two people, destroyed 150 homes and scorched more than 35,000 acres, officials said Saturday.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Friday in Kern County, where firefighters worked in hot, windy conditions to battle the fire, which has burned the Lake Isabella area over the past two days.
Hundreds of residents have been evacuated, but there are concerns that some people may not have been able to escape.
“We’re going to go back in and go through the rubble. We’re going to try and use cadaver dogs,” Kern Country Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. “We don’t know if there are other victims that were unable to escape this fire.”
At least 150 homes have been burned to ashes, 74 damaged, and 1,500 more are under imminent threat from the roaring flames, firefighters said.
“It’s normally one or two structures you hear (about), maybe a handful, but I can’t even count the amount of houses around me that are burned down,” resident Chadrick Kirby told CNN affiliate KGET.
California has been under a severe drought for years. The dry brush from dead plants and trees, combined with the heat and wind, have contributed to a rapid, hard-to-control blaze, local firefighters said.
As plumes of smoke clouded the sky, more than 800 firefighters worked through the hot night amid the steep rugged terrain to battle the blaze, with several hundred more en route, according to the Kern County Fire Department.
California Fire Spokesman Daniel Berlant told CNN firefighters contained 5% of the fire on Friday but overnight, the fire grew and is now at 0% containment.
The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the Kern County mountains and desert area until 5 a.m. (8 a.m. ET) Saturday.
While some residents in the South Lake area of Kern County, near Bakersfield, returned to their homes Friday, county officials said the strong winds are increasing fire behavior in the nearby Kelso Valley area.
“This has been a massive amount of evacuations, people going door-to-door asking people to leave their homes because it’s dangerous,” said Youngblood.
In the past week, Southern California has seen a series of major wildfires, including twin fires in the San Gabriel area that burned 5,267 acres and another blaze in San Diego County that affected 7,609 acres.