More than 60 hikers and campers were initially unable to evacuate Lake Edison and China Peak areas due to the dense smoke cover. Fresno County Lt. Brandon Purcell said the trapped people were safe but “can’t get out because of roadblocks.”
The California National Guard said later Tuesday that a Stockton-based Chinook helicopter shuttled 46 people and four dogs to safety at Fresno Yosemite International Airport. More aircraft were attempting to rescue others trapped by the fire, the guard said.
Volunteer firefighter Brian Fowlie worked alongside his crew to protect homes in the community of North Fork, where he lives. He had been on duty for 48 hours.
“It’s tough, physically. You’re breathing the smoke. Your feet hurt. Your knees hurt,” Fowlie said. “But we’re not going home until we’re done.”
Blackouts in place for parts of at least 22 California counties
Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves Central and Northern California, said it was working to limit the number of customers facing blackouts. Parts of 22 counties and seven tribal communities were facing some “de-energization,” the utility said. The utility said it hoped to start bringing power back to some areas Wednesday.
Almost 1,000 fires have raged in California since Aug. 15, many sparked by lightning strikes. The state already has set a grim record with more than 2 million acres burned this year – more than 3,000 square miles – with several weeks remaining in the heart of fire season.
Evacuation orders issued in Oregon
In Oregon and Washington state, near-hurricane force winds and high temperatures have been energizing the fires. Almost 250,000 homes and businesses in the two states were without power, and the small town of Malden, in Washington’s Whitman County, was devastated by flames.
“The scale of this disaster really can’t be expressed in words,” Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said in a statement. “The fire will be extinguished but a community has been changed for a lifetime.”
Washington town ravaged by flames
Malden, a town of about 200 people 30 miles south of Spokane, was torn apart by multiple blazes driven by 45-mph winds. Sheriff Myers said the largest began Monday afternoon and raced through the tiny downtown. The fire station, post office, city hall/library complex and other prominent buildings “completely burned to the ground,” he said. He estimated that 80% of the homes and structures in Malden were destroyed.
California ablaze:Striking satellite imagery shows how the fires are unfolding