Record-breaking heat is putting a strain on the electrical grid in California and hindering firefighters’ efforts to contain the wildfires.
Authorities say around 150 people were trapped and 10 were injured at a Mammoth Pool campground after flames blocked the only road out of the area.
Intense heat, parched conditions and high winds fueled record-shattering wildfires and strained the electrical grid across much of California on Monday, forcing the Forest Service to close eight national forests.Â Â
California has been strugglingÂ with a record-breaking fire season this year â more than 2 million acres have been torched.Â The days ahead look equally grim.
“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,â said Randy Moore, regional forester for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.
In Northern California on Monday night, Fresno County Fire Department reported that up to 50 people were trapped near Lake Edison and thatÂ 14 hikers were trapped near China Peak. A rescue effort was unsuccessfulÂ due to “heavy smoke conditions,” Fresno County PIO stated in a social media post. Another effort was being planned to evacuate the trapped people.
Fresno County Lt. Brandon Purcell stressedÂ during a press conference that the trapped people “are safe” and “just can’t get out because of roadblocks.”
Most of the hikers had started their routes Friday before the Creek Fire ignited. The fire has since grown to 135,000-plus acres, and is 0% contained.Â At least one person died, according to Fresno Battalion Chief TonyÂ Escobedo.
â’You canât hardly see in front of you,â area resident Jack Machado said. âThe skyâs turning red. It looks like Mars out there.â
Earlier, helicopters pulled more than 200 people to safetyÂ as flames raced nearby fromÂ the Creek Fire roaring through a section of the Sierra National ForestÂ since Friday. Firefighters were able to save the tiny town of Shavers from the flames, but the blaze surrounded Mammoth Pool Campground and destroyed about 30 homes in the town of Big Creek.
More than 12,000 lightning strikes in the past three weeks have sparked almost two dozen major fires,Â according to Cal Fire. The fires have burned tens of thousands of acres, destroyed homes and caused thousands of residents to flee.
September and October are historically the worst fire months, Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said: âItâs usually hot, and the fuels really dry out. And we see more of our wind events.â
Widespread power outages had not materialized, although almost 60,000 homes and businesses were dark MondayÂ afternoon.Â The stateâs largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, was preparing to cut power to 172,000 customers in 22Â counties in the northern half of the state to reduce the possibility its lines and other equipment could spark new fires.
In Southern California, aÂ pyrotechnic device at a gender-reveal event sparked aÂ fire that roared through thousands of acres.Â The El Dorado Fire near Yucaipa began burning Saturday, and authorities said the culprit was a deviceÂ sometimesÂ used to release blue or pink smoke to announce the gender of an expectedÂ baby.
The fire, 70 miles east of Los Angeles, had burned more than 7,000 acres and was 5% contained Monday. Evacuations were ordered in several small communities.
Temperatures in the fire zone have climbed into the 90s, andÂ downtown Los Angeles reached as high as 111 degrees in recent days.Â AÂ record high temperature of 121 degrees was recorded in the nearby Woodland Hills neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley.Â
“CAL FIRE reminds the public that with the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire,” the press release said. “Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially responsible and criminally responsible.”
The family that used the pyrotechnicÂ device tried to extinguish the fire themselves, then called 911 and remained on the scene until firefighters arrived, Cal Fire Capt. Bennet Milloy said.Â The family hasÂ âabsolutely been cooperatingâ with officials, Milloy told The Desert Sun onÂ Monday. He described the event as a small gathering of family members rather than a “party.”
No arrests have been made, and it will be up to the district attorney whether any charges will be filed, he said.Â Possible charges also dependÂ on whether any homes are lost or people injured, Milloy said.
Gov. GavinÂ Newsom urged state residents to keep their thermostats at 78 degrees or higher,Â to use appliances sparingly and to keep lights off whenever possible.Â
“Power outages were avoided … due in large part to individual conservation efforts,” Newsom said. “Even more conservation efforts are needed.”
Newsom has declared aÂ statewide emergency and secured aÂ Presidential Major Disaster DeclarationÂ toÂ bolster the stateâs emergency response. He also issued an emergency proclamation for the counties of Fresno, Madera and Mariposa, which are fightingÂ the Creek Fire; for San Bernardino County, which is battlingÂ the El Dorado Fire; and for San Diego County because ofÂ the Valley Fire.
“As we reflect on Labor Day, we want to thank the firefighters and first responders that have worked tirelessly battling the August Lightning Siege fires,” Newsom said. “Thank you.”
Contributing: Sheyanne N.Â Romero andÂ Joshua Yeager,Â Visalia Times-Delta;Â Nicole Hayden and Colin Atagi,Â Palm Springs Desert Sun; The Associated Press
A firefighter battles the Creek Fire as it threatens homes in the Cascadel Woods neighborhood of Madera County, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo: Noah Berger, AP)
California, Wildfire, Gender reveal party
World news – US – ‘Extreme behavior’: California sets record as wildfires torch more than 2M acres this year