Wildfires rage across the US amid record-breaking temperatures 

Military helicopters tried unsuccessfully to rescue around 50 people trapped by wildfires in California on Monday night, but were beaten back by heavy smoke.

The group of hikers and campers remain trapped by Lake Edison, 250 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra National Forest. 

At least one person has died, said Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo, and warned there may be multiple casualties. 

‘Rescue efforts were unsuccessful, military pilots tried valiantly to land but heavy smoke conditions prevented a safe approach,’ the fire department tweeted. 

‘Another effort will be made shortly to evacuate the trapped people in Lake Edison and China Peak using night vision.’ 

Monday’s frantic rescue attempt came as wildfires blazed across swathes of the western United States on Monday night, destroying homes and devastating forests and grasslands, as record high temperatures and strong winds made the task of fire fighters even more challenging.

In California, 14,100 fire fighters were battling 24 separate blazes, which have collectively destroyed 2 million acres.

In California 14,100 fire fighters are battling 24 separate blazes, which have collectively destroyed 2 million acres

In California 14,100 fire fighters are battling 24 separate blazes, which have collectively destroyed 2 million acres

In Washington state, a small town of 300 people saw 80 per cent of the homes destroyed.

And in Oregon and Idaho, fires close to power lines shut off the electricity, adding to the misery amid the heatwave.

The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, on Sunday night declared a state of emergency as his hard-hit state struggled to beat back the blazes.

Among the most devastating fires was one in northern California, caused by lightning, which was burning through Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Solano counties. 

The LNU Lightning Complex began on August 17 and has so far burnt 375,209 acres, killing four people. The fire is now 91 per cent contained.

Among the most dramatic on Monday was the Creek Fire, which was first sparked on Friday evening and quickly exploded to 135,523 acres – doubling in size again within a day.

The Creek Fire – which trapped the Lake Edison campers – currently has 0 per cent containment, Cal Fire said, and is being fought by almost 1,000 fire fighters.

The fire is located near the communities of Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Huntington Lake.  

Over the weekend the Creek Fire trapped a further 214 people, who had to be rescued by helicopter after the roads were blocked.

Starting on Saturday night lasting into Sunday morning, a Black Hawk helicopter and a large Chinook helicopter flew the 214 people to the National Guard base at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The two aircrafts conducted three lifts from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir along the Fresno/Madera County border, the National Guard said.

Once at the base, emergency medical workers helped triage and take the injured to local hospitals, including Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC). 

Twenty of them were to nearby hospitals and six are in CRMC’s burn unit, EMS officials told Action News.

The Creek Fire also claimed at least two dozen homes in the small mountain town of Big Creek, a fire official said on Monday.

Chris Donnelly, the longtime chief of the volunteer fire department in the nearby town of Huntington Lake, said three propane tanks totaling 11,000 gallons exploded, and an elementary school also caught fire – although it wasn’t clear whether it burned.

The school’s superintendent, Toby Wait, told The Fresno Bee that a church, a library and a historic general store appear to have survived the fire, although Wait’s home burned after his family was evacuated early Saturday.

‘Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community,’ he told the newspaper.   

In southern California, the El Dorado wildfire was sparked on Saturday by a gender reveal party, when the pyrotechnical smoke device sent sparks into the bone-dry brush.

The fire has burned 7,386 acres so far, and is only seven per cent contained.

More than 520 firefighters are involved in attempts to stop the spread of the fire, near San Bernardino.

North of California, in Washington state, the town of Malden was almost entirely destroyed.

Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said that 70-80 per cent of homes in the town of 300 people have gone up in flames.

Local news network KREM showed pictured of the charred Malden post office, a fire still burning inside the gutted building.  

Larry Frick, who lives in Malden, told KXLY that he spent three hours to save his house amid the flames.

‘It’s gone, brother,’ he texted his sibling after the fire swept through. 

‘The entire town is gone. Everything from here to Pine City is gone. The scariest time of my life.’ 

KREM said that at least nine wildfires were burning throughout the Inland Northwest on Monday, amid dry and windy conditions. 

Washington’s wildfires had also spread to neighboring Idaho.

Evacuations were being ordered around the town of Blanchard, as a result of the Hunters Fire.

Adding to the misery, more than 60,000 electric customers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington were without power on Monday afternoon, as high winds blew over trees, snapping power lines. 

The downed electricity lines further added to fears of wildfires. 


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