Southern California wildfire kills 2, destroys 30,000 acres

Posted at 7:50 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 22:00:08-04

By Azadeh Ansari and Artemis Moshtaghian


(CNN) -- Firefighters are battling a fast-moving fatal wildfire in Southern California that has killed at least two people, officials said.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Friday in Kern County, where the Erskine Fire has already torched more than 30,000 acres in the Lake Isabella area over the past 24 hours.

Nearly 100 structures have been burned to ashes, while 1,500 more are under imminent threat from the roaring flames, firefighters said.

"It's normally one or two structures you hear (about), maybe a handful, but I can't even count the amount of houses around me that are burned down," resident Chadrick Kirby told CNN affiliate KGET.

Only 5 percent of the fire has been contained, firefighters said.

"We're going to go back in and go through the rubble. We're going to try and use cadaver dogs," Kern Country Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. "We don't know if there are other victims that were unable to escape this fire."

As plumes of smoke cloud the sky, nearly 800 firefighters worked through the hot night amid the steep rugged terrain to battle the blaze, with several hundred more en route, the Kern County Fire Department said.

"What you have seen in the past 24 hours is a fire that's gone from two acres to several thousand within hours," Kern County Fire Department spokesman Tyler Townsend said at a news conference Friday evening.

Visit KTLA for local coverage and updates on this developing story. 

Photographer Michael Cuffe captured several astonishing shots of the blaze, which he shared on the Kern River Valley and his personal Facebook pages.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the Kern County mountains and desert area until 5 a.m. (8 a.m. ET) Saturday.

While some residents in the South Lake area of Kern County, near Bakersfield, returned to their homes Friday, county officials said the strong winds are increasing fire behavior in the nearby Kelso Valley area.

"This has been a massive amount of evacuations, people going door-to-door asking people to leave their homes because it's dangerous," said Youngblood.

CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.