LAKE ISABELLA (CBSLA.com) — The Erskine Fire that killed two people, destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands to flee is now 5 percent contained.
Wind-whipped flames scorched at least 30,000 acres near Lake Isabella, a popular recreation area east of Bakersfield.
Gov. Jerry Brown Friday declared a state of emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the fire and cleanup its aftermath.
Firefighters said the blaze, which erupted around 4 p.m. Thursday, destroyed about 80 homes in a mobile home community and threatened 1,500 more.
The fire left behind a trail of charred sheet metal and cinderblock foundations. Scorched tricycles, air conditioners and TV dishes littered the landscape. Burned-out cars sat on tireless rims and leafless trees poked from barren, blackened dirt.
“So many people on this block alone that I know that have lost their homes, lost everything. This is bad,” Michael Sullivan said.
David Klippel, 78, a retired police officer, said he didn’t see much of a threat after receiving an automated call advising him to leave. But that changed dramatically within an hour Thursday afternoon.
“I’ve never been so close to a fast-moving, ferocious fire. It was unbelievable,” said Klippel, who later learned his house had caught fire. “I almost didn’t have time to get out.”
Evacuation orders were issued for Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley and Yankee Canyon.
The two dead victims’ bodies were found inside their Mountain Mesa home.
Displaced residents may seek shelter at Kernville Elementary School.
Around 800 firefighters are working to contain the flames.
Three firefighters suffered smoke inhalation injuries.
Highway 178 will remain closed at Highway 155 and Sierra Way until further notice.