Helicopters Rescue About 200 Trapped in California Wildfire

Helicopters Rescue About 200 Trapped in California Wildfire


About 200 people were rescued by helicopter on Saturday night after a fast-growing wildfire trapped them at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir in California, the authorities said.

Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter were used to help in the rescues and fly those who had been trapped to Fresno Yosemite International Airport, said Brad Alexander, a spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

About 20 people were injured, he said, and some were taken to a hospital.

Earlier, the Fresno Fire Department offered a different assessment on Twitter: It said 63 people had been rescued, with two severely injured, 10 moderately injured and 51 others with minor or no injuries.

The conditions of those injured or hospitalized were not immediately available.

“Aircraft are returning to continue rescue operations,” the department said. “Unknown how many more.”

California’s emergency services coordinated mutual aid from the state’s National Guard and Naval Air Station Lemoore after the Madera County sheriff asked for help, Mr. Alexander said.

The sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook late Saturday that about 150 people had been sheltering at the Mammoth Pool Boat Launch.

The Mammoth Pool Reservoir, which is in the Sierra National Forest, is “very remote and accessible by one two-lane road,” said Sarah Jackson, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.

“When that road is blocked, it becomes very difficult to come and go, let alone in an emergency-type situation,” she said.

The area is heavily forested and as a result “you can assume there are burned and living trees” cutting off the only exit, she said.

“It’s either fire or trees blocking the road,” she said, adding that the authorities had asked people to avoid the area.

Mr. Alexander said the road was cut off because of the direction of the fire and was no longer accessible because of the intensity of the heat as well as smoke, damage, threat of debris and fallen trees.

Many people had been sheltering in or around the reservoir, he added.

The Creek Fire, which has grown to at least 36,000 acres, began on Friday just as the holiday weekend was getting started, according to officials. The cause of the fire remained under investigation, officials said.

California is still reeling from a heat wave last month that exacerbated a series of devastating wildfires, including the second- and third-largest fires in the state’s history.

Forecasters predicted brutally hot and dry weather across much of the Western United States over the Labor Day weekend, including in California.

On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning until Sunday afternoon, signaling an increased risk of fire for the coastal mountain slopes and inland valleys of San Diego and Riverside Counties.





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