BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KTLA) — An out-of-control, wind-driven wildfire burning in the Lake Isabella area of Kern County has left two people dead, destroyed about 80 homes and has grown to about 30,000 acres in less than a day, authorities said Friday.
KTLA said the two fatalities were confirmed by the Kern County Fire Department about noon Friday. No information on the deaths was available, and the department said firefighters were still “engaged in firefighting operations and are beginning the damage assessment process.”
Officials are also continuing to search for additional victims using cadaver dogs.
Dubbed the Erskine Fire, the blaze had burned about 30,000 acres and destroyed close to 100 structures, with an additional 1,500 threatened, the federal InciWeb information page stated about 3 p.m. Friday.
The blaze started about 4 p.m. Thursday, and had burned nearly 30 square miles in 18 hours.
Before the acreage was updated, authorities had said the fire was at 8,000 acres earlier Friday morning and was later reported at more than 19,000 acres. Officials said it had grown about 30 percent to 30,000 acres by 6 p.m.
Officials said 80 homes were destroyed, and that number was likely to grow as a survey of damage continued.
“We had a lot of destruction yesterday,” county fire Capt. Tyler Townsend said Friday afternoon. “This fire … it exploded. It went from 2 to thousands of acres within hours.”
Bakersfield television station KGET reported more homes were burning Friday afternoon along Kelso Valley Road.
The blaze was 5 percent contained shortly after 6 p.m., and strong winds were increasing fire activity Friday afternoon.
“The mountainous terrain, five years of drought and wind gusts of over 20 mph all drove a fire over 11 miles in 13 hours,” said county fire Chief Brian Marshall.
“Our firefighters … have been engaged in a firefight of epic proportions, trying to save every structure possible.”
Marshall said there were not enough fire engines and firefighters to put in front of every structure.
“Once a home is a quarter or more involved, we have to move onto the next one,” Townsend told KTLA.
The fire began about close to Erskine Creek Road and Apollo Way in the Lake Isabella area, on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.