2 die in California wildfire that left little time to flee

A wildfire that broke out Thursday afternoon in Kern County tore through 11 miles in 13 hours, overwhelming firefighters and burning dozens of homes. The fire has burned more than 2,500 acres, and about 1,000 homes are under threat.

LOS ANGELES A fast-moving central California wildfire has scorched 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) of parched and rugged terrain in less than a day, destroying 100 structures and injuring three firefighters, fire officials said on Friday. The Kern County Fire Department even live-streamed the chaos on Facebook as crews on the ground frantically tried to get people out - and get control of the blaze.

Approximately 100 structures have been lost and 1,500 additional structures are threatened.

Firefighters have been extremely busy evacuating residents, as more and more crews arrive to try to protect homes. Authorities said the Erskine Fire ignited over 19,000 acres, destroyed nearly 100 buildings and threatened 1,500 other structures in the southern Sierra Nevadas since Thursday afternoon. The Border fire has burned 7,483 acres and destroyed five homes, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It's one of the most devastating I've ever seen".

Numerous houses in the area have propane tanks, adding to the danger, Townsend said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation Friday. Most evacuees were allowed to return home Thursday.

Laura Rogers was one of those who thought she'd never see her home or her brother's home again.

"I have friends checking for me right now", she said Friday outside an evacuation center at Kernville Elementary School.

The blaze is "extremely risky, extremely volatile", fire Capt. Tyler Townsend said. Three firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation. Cachet Kirby, 22, a resident of Mount Mesa, recounted how she and her neighbors grabbed every belonging and pet they could and fled through thick smoke with flames bearing down the mountains.

The blaze, dubbed the Erskine Fire, exploded in size quickly after breaking out in the area around 4 p.m. Thursday.

"It was to the point you couldn't see, you couldn't breathe", Kirby said.

If you're close to the area of the fire, however, you may experience cell service disruption.

Forecasters have posted warnings of very low humidity and gusty winds of up to 55 mph that could worsen the fire 35 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

The wind-whipped fire has destroyed 80 homes in the southern Sierra Nevada and exploded to more than 29 square miles.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Nina Agrawal contributed to this report.


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