LAKE ISABELLA ( — Firefighters slowly gained ground on a deadly wildfire that has devastated communities near Lake Isabella northeast of Bakersfield.

The Erskine Fire was 40 percent contained after burning 43,460 acres of parched brush and timber since it began Thursday.

Lighter winds Sunday were helping firefighters get an upper hand on the flames that have destroyed 200 homes and killed two people.

The death toll may rise as firefighters Saturday may have found human remains when they began going through neighborhoods to count houses and mobile homes incinerated by the blaze.

In an unrecognizable mobile home, they found what appears to be a set of human remains. But because they were burned beyond recognition, forensic investigators will have to determine whether they belonged to a human or an animal, Kern County Sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said.

At least 2,500 homes remained threatened.

Evacuation areas include: Highway 178 to Kelso Valley to Paiute, Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the fire and to clean up in the aftermath.

The American Red Cross of Kern County has set up shelters for people affected by the fire at St. Jude’s Catholic Church on Nellie Dent Drive in Wofford Heights and Kernville Elementary School on Sierra Way in Kernville.

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