Military helicopters rescue dozens trapped by California wildfire

A fast-moving brush fire cut off evacuation routes and trapped about 150 people in the Sierra National Forest in California, prompting a military helicopter rescue, authorities have said.

The Creek Fire consumed more than 14,500 hectares (36,000 acres) and threatened numerous mountain communities after igniting on Friday and exploding on Saturday, authorities said.

Military helicopters rescued at least 63 people from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, which is about 70km (45 miles) from the city of Fresno. Two people were seriously injured, while 10 had moderate wounds, according to the Fresno Fire Department.

The Madera County Sheriff’s office said about 150 people were initially trapped at the popular camping destination, and were advised to shelter in place.

“Emergency crews from multiple agencies need to focus on the critical task at hand – rescue of the approximately 150 people sheltering-in-place at Mammoth Pool Boat Launch,” the sheriff’s office said on Facebook, warning people to avoid the area.

California National Guard was using Chinooks in the rescue operation, National Guard Bureau chief General Daniel Hokanson said, tweeting a picture taken from the cockpit of a helicopter showing it surrounded by blazing trees.

Residents of Huntington Lake, Camp Sierra and Big Creek in central California were ordered to evacuate, and portions of Highway 168 were shut down, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said. Shaver Lake was also closed.

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