Rescuers in military helicopters airlifted 207 people to safety over the weekend after an explosive wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California’s Sierra National Forest, one of dozens of fires burning amid record-breaking temperatures that strained the state's electrical grid and for a time threatened power outages for millions.
Wildfires have burned more than 2 million acres in California this year, setting a state record even as crews battled dozens of growing blazes in sweltering temperatures Monday that strained the electrical grid and threatened power outages for millions.
Meanwhile in other states:
- Montana remained in a state of fire emergency due to extremely hazardous wildland fire conditions throughout Montana. Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order Thursday. A cold front is expected to bring temporary relief with freezing temperatures and a chance of rain and snow in some parts of the state Monday night.
- In Washington state, fire crews have made progress battling a wildfire near Yakima but officials are worried about high winds forecast throughout the weekend.
The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began late Saturday and continued into Sunday morning at Mammoth Pool Reservoir. At least two people were severely injured and 10 more suffered moderate injuries. Two campers refused rescue and stayed behind, the Madera County Sheriff's Office said, and there was no immediate word on their fates.
A photo tweeted by the California National Guard showed more than 20 evacuees packed tightly inside one helicopter, some crouched on the floor clutching their belongings.
Other blazes broke out in Southern California and forced evacuations in San Diego and San Bernardino counties. Meanwhile, exceptionally hot temperatures were driving the highest power use of the year, and transmission losses because of the wildfires have cut into supplies. Eric Schmitt of the California Independent System Operator that manages the state’s power grid said up to 3 million customers faced power outages if residents didn't curtail their electricity usage.