March 8, 2021

Fast-moving wildfires erupt amid heat wave in California


Associated Press

SHAVER LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Three fast-spreading wildfires sent people fleeing and trapped campers in one campground as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures above 100 degrees in many parts of California.

A record-breaking 117 degrees was recorded in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

The most threatening wildfire was burning near Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest, which exploded to 56 square miles (145 square kilometers), jumped a river and compromised the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground, forest spokesman Dan Tune said.

He said an unknown number of people at the campground were told to shelter in place until fire crews, aided by water-dropping aircraft, could gain access to the site. Tune said he didn’t know how close the fire was burning to the campsite.

“All our resources are working to make that escape route nice and safe for them,” he said.

The fire broke out Friday evening. Crews worked through the night, but by Saturday morning authorities issued evacuation orders for lakeside communities and urged people seeking relief from the Labor Day weekend heat wave to stay away from the popular lake.

“Adjust your Labor Day weekend plans. Access to Shaver Lake is completely closed to the public due to the #CreekFire,” the Fresno County sheriff’s office tweeted after announcing evacuation orders for campsites and communities by the lake.

The California Highway Patrol shut State Route 168 to only allow access for emergency responders and evacuees.

The fire sent a huge smoke cloud visible from space. There was no containment.

Bone-dry conditions and the hot weather fueled the flames.

“Once the fire gets going, it creates its own weather, adding wind to increase the spread,” Tune said.

The lake 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Fresno is surrounded by thick pine forests and is a popular destination for boating and fishing.

In Southern California, a fire in the foothills of Yucaipa has prompted evacuation orders for eastern portions of the city of 54,000 along with several communities, including Oak Glen, Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls. Cal Fire’s San Bernardino unit said the fire scorched at least 1 1/2 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) and was burning at a “moderate to dangerous” rate of spread.

A portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness was closed, and hikers were urged to immediately leave.

In eastern San Diego County, fire officials warned a fire near Alpine was burning at a “dangerous rate of speed” after spreading to 400 acres (0.6 square miles) within an hour. A small community south of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest was ordered to leave.

The heat wave was expected to spread triple-digit temperatures over much of California through Monday as a high pressure system perches over the Western United States. Officials urged people to conserve electricity to ease strain on the state’s power grid and to follow social distancing and mask requirements when they hit recreational areas.

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Author: Associated Press