California fire claims lives, homes

  • 25/06/2016
People work to fight the Erskine Fire as a house burns near Lake Isabella, California (Kern County Fire Department)
People work to fight the Erskine Fire as a house burns near Lake Isabella, California (Kern County Fire Department)

A fast-moving central California wildfire that has more than doubled in size has killed two people and destroyed 100 structures, authorities say.

Officials were weighing whether to expand evacuation orders in the rural area of the state.

The so-called Erskine Fire broke out on Thursday afternoon in the foothills of Kern County about 68 kilometres northeast of Bakersfield, and three firefighters were hospitalised for smoke inhalation, officials said.

The fire has led hundreds of residents to evacuate and the Kern County Fire Department said on Friday afternoon two people had died, though it did not identify the people or release further details.

High temperatures likely to surpass 32 degrees Celsius on Friday and bone-dry vegetation from a five-year California drought were stoking flames.

The rapidly expanding blaze 241km north of Los Angeles has destroyed 100 structures, including homes, outbuildings and detached garages and another 1500 structures are threatened.

The estimated size of the fire jumped from 3237 hectares early on Friday to more than 7689 hectares before noon local time, authorities said.

On Friday, authorities warned the more than 3000 residents of the community of Lake Isabella on the shore of a reservoir to be prepared to evacuate.

A contingent of 600 firefighters was battling the blaze with hundreds more en route, according to the government fire tracking website InciWeb.

Local television stations showed footage of burned-out lots covered in gray ash, with only the metal frames of benches and virtually unrecognisable appliances not consumed by flames.

The blaze, which was is not contained, was one of several large wildfires burning in parched California.

To the south, firefighters were struggling to manage the so-called San Gabriel Complex fire in the foothills of Los Angeles County.

As of Friday, it had burned over 2266 hectares of chaparral and short grass, and containment lines were drawn around 30 per cent of its perimeter, according to InciWeb.