World News

Hundreds forced to flee their homes as two wildfires tear across 800 acres of California forest, neighborhoods, and a lakeside resort

  • Multiple blazes across California have affected more than 9,000 acres, destroying homes and charring land
  • One blaze in the El Dorado National Forest has burned more than 8,600 acres and forced 400 people to flee
  • A smaller fire further north has destroyed 350 acres and forced evacuations of 1,500 homes
  • Years-long droughts have plagued the state, while residents suspect arson could have sparked some blazes

Mia De Graaf
and Lydia Warren for MailOnline

21:03 GMT, 15 September 2014

10:42 GMT, 16 September 2014



Thousands of California residents have been forced to flee their homes as dozens of wildfires tear across forests, neighborhoods and a lakeside resort – charring at least 9,000 acres of land.

This year’s wildfire season – which usually stretches from May to October – is set to be the most destructive on record, with hundreds of structures and vehicles already destroyed and thousands of acres burned, authorities have said.

One blaze, dubbed the King Fire, is roaring through the El Dorado National Forest, which is about 60 miles east of Sacramento. It alone has burned more than 8,600 acres in El Dorado County, threatening 600 structures and forcing 400 people to flee. It is just five per cent contained, authorities said.

A separate, smaller inferno about 250 miles north has forced authorities to evacuate residents from more than 1,500 homes. By Monday night, flames from this blaze, the Boles Fire, had charred 350 acres and destroyed 100 homes – and was just 15 per cent contained.

The fires comes after three years of droughts have left the land covered with bone-dry brush. As temperatures soar to 100 F (38 C), this arid land duels the flames.  

Devastation: Embers burn near a destroyed vehicle in Oakhurst, California. Thousands of residents have been forced out of their homes by wildfires

Battle: Firefighters work to put out fires and protect structures along Center Street in Weed, California on Monday as fires reach into Oregon

Fight: A helicopter makes a water drop while a second picks up water to fight a wildfire at Bass Lake, California, where around 30 homes have been destroyed

Devastating: A fire approaches the shore of Bass Lake, which has left the area looking ‘like a war zone,’ one life-long resident said

With no sign of the fires stopping, Governor Jerry Brown has secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 per cent of the cost of fighting the flames, state officials said.

Another fire, the Courtney Fire, has charred 320 acres east of Yosemite. Around 30 homes have been destroyed and 1,000 residents have been evacuated. It is 35 per cent contained, authorities said on Monday. 

The Fresno Bee reported that one neighborhood near Bass Lake was hit especially hard, with several homes turned to ash and smoldering embers.

The fire began at 1.30pm on Sunday off a road outside of Oakhurst, just south of the entrance of Yosemite National Park, before tearing across forests to the edge of Bass Lake. Stoked by winds, it quickly charred at least 320 acres, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

By Monday evening, the fire had burned 320 acres and was 35 per cent contained, authorities said. Only some residents have been allowed re-entry. 

Action: A jet air tanker was sent out to drop a load of fire retardant on the flames blazing through woodland south east of Yosemite National Park

Blaze: Authorities evacuated homes in central California as firefighters tackled blazes across thousands of acres of land, including this home in Oakhurst

Destroyed: Hundreds of structures have been damaged by the multiple fires in the state, as firefighters continue to work to control the flames

Warning: Officials in and around Oakhurst have braced citizens for further evacuation notices as the region reacts to a period of severe drought

Urgent: Governor Jerry Brown secured an emergency grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 per cent of the cost to fight the fire

Heroic: Firefighter Randy Browning hoses down a hot spot of a fire near Pollack Pines, California on Monday. The blazes have been stoked by dry land

Rural: Collin Herman, of Healdsburg California, leaves a fire truck in Redwood Valley on Monday. The wildfire is one of dozens to recently rip through the state

Charred: Damage can be seen across the Black Bart Trail in Redwood Valley on Monday

‘This is gut-wrenching,’ CalFire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson told the newspaper. ‘It makes you sick.’  

Stephen Sidman, who has lived in the area all his life, said he watched in horror as his parents’ home was destroyed by flames. He had been visiting them when they spotted the fire and had just 20 minutes to grab whatever belongings they could.

‘It’s like a war zone,’ Sidman, 46, told the Fresno Bee. 

Cal Fire Captain Frank Bigelow Jr. told the Fresno Bee that the cause of the fire is still under investigation and said claims of arson were so far ‘just rumors’.

‘I know people want answers and I think with this one you’ll see an answer more quickly than not, but I think it will still be a couple of days before we put it out,’ he said.

The area is a popular destination throughout the year. There were no reports of the blaze affecting the park.  

Heartbreak: Eric Collin, left, and Jenny Shakman embrace each other for the first time after their homes were burned to the ground in Redwood Valley

Burnt: Jon Cunningham looks at the destruction near where his house burned in Oakhurst and a neighbor’s sports car was left unrecognizable

The Boles fire burns along a ridge Monday, September 15, 2014, in Weed, Calif. The, fire driven by fierce winds, raced through a small town near the Oregon border on Monday, burning a church to the ground, damaging or destroying 100 homes and prompting evacuation orders for at least 1,500 people, authorities said

Smoke from a wildfire rises into the sky near Pollack Pines, California on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

This Sunday, September 14, 2014 photo shows a firefighting helicopter making a water drop over a wildfire at Bass Lake, California

But the fire is just one of many currently raging through the state. In Southern California, evacuation orders for 200 homes in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon were lifted late Sunday as firefighters contained 50 percent of a wildfire. 

The residents were evacuated after the fire broke out Friday. The U.S. Forest Service downgraded the fire’s size from 2 ½ square miles to 1 ½ square miles due to better mapping of the blaze.

Six firefighters have suffered minor injuries, many of them heat-related as the region baked under triple-digit temperatures.

A heat wave was expected to last through Tuesday in Southern California, and a smoke advisory was in effect for parts of Riverside and Orange counties.

Berlant said crews were making progress on two wildfires that broke out Saturday in Northern California.

A wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills about halfway between Sacramento and Reno burned 250 acres, destroyed two homes and three outbuildings. The burned homes were in Alta Sierra, a community of some 6,000 people about five miles south of Grass Valley.

A 417-acre blaze in Mendocino County destroyed five structures and five outbuildings, according to CalFire. It was 50 percent contained. 

Burning sky: Residents shopping in Sparks, Nevada, were shrouded in smoke and haze from the wildfires more than 50 miles away as the sky shone bright orange

In this Sunday, September 14, 2014 photo provided by, large plumes of smoke from a wildfire rise over Bass Lake, California

A jet aerial tanker drops its load of fire retardant on a fire near Pollack Pines, California on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014


READ ALSO:   Mourners sing Amazing Grace at candlelight vigil held for the ten victims of the Oregon college shooting