As the Creek Fire exploded to over 130,000 acres over Labor Day weekend in the Sierra National Forest, hundreds of campers and outdoor enthusiasts have been trapped by its fast-moving flames. On Saturday night, 224 campers were rescued by helicopter at the Mammoth Pools Reservoir, but dozens more hikers and campers remain trapped in the China Peak area and the National Guard continues to conduct evacuation operations in the area.
As of Tuesday morning, Black Hawk helicopter operations were able to rescue 23 people overnight in the areas of China Peak and Lake Edison. Dozens still remain trapped by the flames and officials have announced one death.
“Sunday evening, an older gentleman arrived at Vermillion Store, located on Edison Road in Mono Hot Springs,” said Tony Botti, spokesman for Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. “The man collapsed due a medical episode. Life-saving measures were taken, but he ended up passing away.”
Most of the people began their hiking routes on Friday afternoon before the Creek Fire started. With those people still trapped in the forest, rescue operations have continued nonstop Tuesday morning.
“As of right now, we have three helicopters going to four different locations,” California Army National Guard Col. David Hall said in an interview with NBC’s Today Show. “The first helicopter successfully landed with 13 passengers on board coming out of the Sierra National Forest.”
The helicopter is having difficulty flying in the area due to the heavy smoke from the wildfire, which has caused poor air quality throughout Northern California. The fire has destroyed 65 structures and and has no containment and dangerous winds and fire conditions are expected throughout Tuesday.