Kern County Fire Department officials confirm at least 2 fatalities in the massive Erskine fire near Lake Isabella in Central California, northeast of Bakersfield.
The wildfire erupted late Thursday resulting in more than 19,000 acres destroyed and more than 100 structures scorched. Thousands of local residents were evacuated from their rural communities.
“2 confirmed fatalities at this time. Firefighters are still engaged in firefighting & are beginning damage assessment,” Kern County Fire tweeted on Friday.
“The fire is moving with the winds in an easterly direction,” Kern County Fire Capt. Tyler Townsend said in a Friday afternoon press briefing at KCFD Station 72 in Lake Isabella. “Power lines down throughout the area.”
Also on Friday afternoon, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency.
“Anne and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to everyone impacted by this destructive blaze,” Brown said in the news release, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We join all Californians in expressing our gratitude to the courageous firefighters, emergency personnel and volunteers working tirelessly throughout Kern County to help residents and extinguish this fire.”
Approximately 800 firefighters have been on the scene, and authorities believe there will eventually have a total of one thousand. Two firefighters have suffered smoke-related injuries.
Years of drought coupled with heat waves and increasingly gusty winds earlier in the week created the wild flames, said officials.