In extreme heat in California on Monday, firefighters faced another difficult day battling an outbreak of new fires that burned homes, city halls and forced thousands to flee.
Fires, burning near the Mexican border to the Sierra Nevada forests, have spread a curtain of smoke across much of the state as meteorologists warned Los Angeles residents in the San Francisco Bay Area of San Francisco to another day of oppressive heat and dangerously dirty air.
The largest new fire, Creek Fire, has been burning for 79,000 acres in Fresno County since Sunday night. Residents and local fire officials said the blaze hit gorges and destroyed much of the tiny Big Creek community.
Chris Donnelly, head of fire at nearby Huntington Lake, said a former Big Creek firefighter told him: “The city is gone.” Mr Donnelly said it was difficult to get basic information about the progress of the fires.
“Cell phones are out of order, all landlines are down,” said Chief Donnelly. “My assistant leader has to drive to the top of a ski lift to get a cell tower. It’s really hard to know what’s going on. “
The area is a popular haven for summer cabins, scout camps and campsites, but has been converted into fiery trap during the weekend. More than 200 people had to be rescued by air from the Mammoth Pool area. Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters evacuated the evacuated areas, about 20 of which were injured, including burns, broken bones and wounds.
Another 20 people waiting for rescue Sunday night were evacuated by ground crews from around the tank, said Sheriff Tyson Pogue of Madera County.
Firefighters elsewhere in California were trying to contain the blaze:
A 7,000-acre fire in San Bernardino County, Southern California, Cal Fire, the state fire service, said when a “smoke-producing pyrotechnic device” was launched. A family was using the device at a celebration to reveal their gender when it fired 4 feet of dry grass. (Α 2018 wildfire in Arizona also started during a party that reveals gender.). Cal Fire Captain Bennet Milloy said Monday morning that the family called 911, stayed on site and provided photographs to investigators. Charges were considered, he said, but their scope would not be determined until the fire was extinguished.
A 9,850-acre wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest east of San Diego that had destroyed 11 structures by Sunday night.
Fires have added to the pain of an already brutal season across the West. More than 1.6 million acres burned only in California.
Firefighters in Montana were trying to assess his damage Bridge Foothills Fire, which exploded over the weekend near Bozeman and burned at least 7,000 acres, destroying an unknown number of homes.
Around Denver, ash fell from the sky on Sunday from a huge fire burning north of Rocky Mountain National Park, which forced park officials to close a popular road to attractions. The hot, dry weather in the area was expected to subside in a blizzard early on Tuesday, raising hopes for some relief from the fires.
Christina Morales contributed report.