Over 200 people were rescued by National Guard helicopters on Saturday and Sunday as the fast-moving Creek Fire moved toward campgrounds in Sierra National Forest, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said. Twenty were transported to local hospitals, the sheriff’s department posted on Facebook.
The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began late Saturday and continued through the overnight hours. A National Guard spokesman earlier told CBS San Francisco that a Chinook helicopter had airlifted the first 50-60 evacuees to Fresno Airport — “Some of which have been injured by the flames of the fire.”
“A Blackhawk helicopter is also involved in the rescue,” Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Shiroma emailed at 10:22 p.m. “At the airport, emergency response, fire and medical elements from the 144th Fighter Wing are on hand to assist. Both rotary wings are returning to the fire site to evacuate more people immediately.”
The Fresno County Sheriff’s office issued an evacuation warning for all of the Shaver Lake area in the Sierra National Forest. The fire sent a huge plume of smoke that was visible from space.
The Creek Fire — consisting of three wildfires — was burning in the Sierra National Forest, which exploded to 56 square miles, jumped a river Saturday afternoon and compromised the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground, forest spokesman Dan Tune told CBS San Francisco.
The fire in Sierra National Forest broke out Friday night and had burned to 36,000 acres by Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire. The National Weather Service in Oakland said there were multiple lightning strikes on Saturday night.