Military helicopters rescued more than 200 people—some with burns or broken bones—who were trapped by a northern California wildfire that has devoured 45,000 acres.
Dozens were stranded Saturday afternoon around the Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, where the Creek Fire was raging out of control.
“We’re in the truck. The air is so black, we can’t open our eyes without it burning,” Allyson Chance, 14, and her sister, Lily, 16, texted their stepmother as they waited to be rescued, local TV station KMPH reported.
“We are completely trapped,” Jeremy Remington said in a video from the site posted by KSEE24. “There is fire all around us, on all sides.”
Campers were told to shelter in place and wait for help—and to jump in the reservoir if the flames got too close.
With the exit road cut off, authorities sent in Blackhawk and Chinook choppers to get people out. Around 10:30 p.m. local time, the Fresno Fire Department reported that 63 people had been rescued and taken to the Fresno airport. By Sunday morning, 207 had been airlifted—though remarkably, two people opted to stay behind and refused evacuation.
Twenty had severe enough injuries that they had to be hospitalized. Dan Lynch of the Fresno County Department of Health said the injuries included burns, broken bones, cuts, and breathing difficulties.
California firefighters are battling 22 separate blazes around the state. There are more than 400 personnel working the Creek Fire, which ignited on Friday night and exploded in size hour by hour. As of Sunday morning, it was completely uncontained.