Residents and visitors in Shaver Lake have been ordered to evacuate as the rapidly-spreading Creek Fire grew to 45,500 acres overnight.
“The entire community of Shaver Lake is now under an Evacuation ORDER due to the Creek Fire,” a Sunday morning release from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said. “All residents and visitors are urged to leave immediately. There is an imminent threat to life and property due to the fast moving Creek Fire.”
The area was under an evacuation warning on Saturday.
Evacuations orders remain in place around North Fork and in areas around Huntington Lake. The wildfire, which began Friday evening, has now spread to over 70 square miles. The Madera County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday advised Bass Lake residents and visitors to leave ahead of possible evacuation warnings.
On Saturday evening, National Guard helicopters airlifted more than 200 people who had been trapped by the fire at Mammoth Pool reservoir north of Huntington. The fire had cut off escape routes out of the area.
Simply extraordinary, lifesaving work by the @CalGuard airlifting more than 200 people to safety overnight from the imminent danger of the #CreekFire The National Guard stands Always Ready, Always There to support our communities and nation in times of need. pic.twitter.com/MybDKESipJ
— General Daniel Hokanson (@ChiefNGB) September 6, 2020
The Fresno Fire Department said an initial evacuation mission transported as many as 63 individuals, several of whom they described as having injuries, to Fresno for care in local hospitals. Those injured were reported to be suffering from burns and broken bones.
The helicopters then returned to the reservoir as the evening wore on to airlift more people out. A total of 207 were reported to have been evacuated.
Smoke from the Creek Fire near Shaver Lake. (US Forest Service photo)
Video posted on social media Saturday night showed what was described as a group of backpackers escaping the fire in their vehicle as flames burned all around the road they were driving on.
A backpacking trip cut short by unforeseen thunder, ash rain, and having to drive through literal fire to evacuate #SierraNationalForest in time. Grateful to the SNF ranger who led us down… wish we we got her name. #CreekFire @mercnews @sfchronicle @ABC7 @KTVU pic.twitter.com/37Ys7XGJ2a
— Jules (@julipdoe) September 6, 2020
Evacuations are in effect for the other nearby communities of Camp Sierra, Big Creek, and Huntington Lake. A mandatory evacuation was also ordered for a number of areas around North Fork, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. As of 4pm, the sheriff’s office posted the following list to Facebook:
– Beasore Meadows (added Saturday night)
– Cascadel Woods
– Kinsman Flat Subdivision and nearby residences.
– Mammoth Pool area
– Whiskey Falls area
– Clover Meadow area
– Arnold Meadows Subdivision
– Minarets area
– All campgrounds off Minarets Road (Road 225)
– All campgrounds off Beasore Road north of Grizzley Road
– Northbound Minarets Road (Rd 225) at Italian Bar Road
– Central Camp Road at Road 274
– Northbound Beasore Road at Grizzley Road
Information Center/Rally Point will at North Fork Elementary School.
According to a report from CalFire, the wildfire had grown from an initial 500 acres Saturday morning to 2000 acres by 10am. The fire was listed at 5,000 acres as of 2:15 p.m. before dramatically expanding to 36,000 acres by 5 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday morning, fire officials updated the size of the blaze to 45,000 acres with 0% contained.
Was Fire Tornado Behind the Massive Fire Expansion?
The massive and rapid growth of the fire prompted UCLA climate researcher Daniel Swain to consider whether a fire tornado was to blame.
“#CreekFire has exploded in size & intensity at a time when 1000s of visitors have crowded area,” Swain posted on Twitter. “Massive pyrocumulus cloud indicative of extreme fire behavior, & #pyrotornado may have occurred.”
Atmospheric aerosol/stratospheric folks: this extremely vigorous and tall #pyrocumulus plume atop the #CreekFire looks like a good candidate for stratospheric smoke injection. This has been observed for a number of recent intense fires in Australia & boreal forest region… https://t.co/J6zgmRF4qv
— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) September 6, 2020
The agency listed the origin of the fire as about 7 miles northeast of the town of Shaver Lake. It is believed to have started at around 6:45 p.m. Friday. The cause is under investigation.
The U.S. Forest Service says 800 personnel are now battling the fire. Apparatus includes 25 engines, 3 bulldozers, 2 helicopters and 3 air tankers.
@FresnoSheriff @FresnoCoFire @R5_Fire_News #CreekFire Evacuation Warning for all of Shaver Lake, as far south as Littlefield Road. There is a potential threat to life & / or property. Those who require extra time to evacuate & those with pets / livestock should leave now. pic.twitter.com/lfGqZmPVwG
— Fresno Co Sheriff (@FresnoSheriff) September 5, 2020
The sheriff’s office posted a message on Twitter saying access to Shaver Lake is closed and no one is being allowed past the 4 lane on eastbound Hwy. 168.