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A wildfire ripping through California’s Kern County near Lake Isabella has killed two people, officials announced Friday. The ongoing Erskine Fire is said to have destroyed 30,000 acres and 100 structures so far, while putting another 1,500 structures at risk. An estimated 800 firefighters are on the scene.
The fire began Thursday June 23 at about 3:51, InciWeb reported. Authorities are investigating what may have caused the fire.
FIRE SEASON 2016 #ErskineFire June 3, 2016 Lake Isabella, California @chief_miller #chiefmiller @firefighters_daily @firefighterposts #firetrucksofamerica @LACoFDPIO @LACoFireAirOps #Angeles_NF #nikonnofilter#EmergencyPhotographersNetwork #NBC4you #KTLA5NEWS #abc7eyewitnessnews #KCAL9 #CNNNEWS #abcworldnews #IAFF #firephotographer Reposts are OK please give photo credit. @davemillsphoto www.davemillsphoto.com
A video posted by Dave Mills (@davemillsphoto) on Jun 23, 2016 at 8:41pm PDT
On Friday, Kern County Fire Department announced two people had been killed as a result of the Erskine Fire but didn’t release the identities of the victims.
#ErskineFire: 2 confirmed fatalities at this time. Firefighters are still engaged in firefighting & are beginning damage assessment.— Kern County Fire (@kerncountyfire) June 24, 2016
As the fire raged on Friday Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency “due to the effects of the Erskine Fire, which has claimed multiple lives, caused the evacuation of thousands of residents, burned thousands of acres and damaged homes and critical infrastructure.”
A county fire spokesman, Phil Neufeld, said the bodies of the two victims were found near Lake Isabella. In a news conference Friday evening, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the victims were an elderly couple who were overcome by smoke while trying to run from the fire. During the news conference, officials also announced that the fire had spread from the previously reported 19,000 acres to 30,000 acres. Officials said the fire was five percent contained at that point in time.
“It’s hot weather, steep rugged terrain, light flashy fuels, dry brush,” Kern County Fire Department Capt. Tyler Townsend said in a news conference. “That’s the three elements that create a fast moving wildfire.”
California has notoriously been suffering from a years long drought, creating ideal conditions for wildfires. Townsend told the Associated Press the fire was fast-moving, burning “through several communities” within four hours. “I’ve never been in a wildland fire where I’ve seen so many homes burn,” Townsend told the AP. “It’s one of the most devastating I’ve ever seen.”