13 Hikers Rescued as 16 Large Wildfires Rage in California

13 Hikers Rescued as 16 Large Wildfires Rage in California

The French Fire burns a hillside above Mariposa, Calif., on July 5, 2024. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 7/9/2024


Placer County search crews located 13 backpackers July 8 in the Tahoe National Forest as fire crews raced to extinguish one of the 16 large wildfires burning in California.
The Royal Fire started just after 4 p.m. Sunday in the Royal Gorge area of Placer County, located in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe.
Sheriff’s deputies located the group of backpackers, ranging in age from 16 to 20, in the fire zone area Sunday night, according to a Placer County Sheriff’s Office post on social media.
“Their vehicles were located by deputies and fire officials doing checks near the Royal Fire on the evening it broke out,” the office posted Monday on X.
Using the department’s helicopter, deputies located the group which had planned to hike and camp alongside the steep and difficult Palisades Creek Trail, according to the sheriff’s office.
The group was located about two miles away from the fire.
Two members of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team were dropped into the area by the helicopter Monday to hike out with the group, away from the fire, the office reported.
“Great, quick work by our [helicopter] crew in locating the group and a huge thank you to our Search and Rescue volunteers for coming out early, ready to help,” the office wrote on X.
Residents of approximately five homes have been evacuated from the area around the fire, which had consumed about 169 acres by Monday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Management, known as Cal Fire.
The fire is located west of Soda Springs near Soda Springs Road. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, according to Cal Fire.

Fires Across the State

Nearly 170,000 acres were on fire throughout California on Monday as firefighters battled over 3,400 wildfires across the state—16 of which were significant in size or damage, Cal Fire reported. As of Monday afternoon, 86 structures had been destroyed throughout the state with another 42 damaged.
The Lake Fire burning in Santa Barbara County grew to over 20,300 acres overnight, emerging as the largest fire in California Monday, and threatened to reach an enclave favored by Hollywood celebrities in Santa Ynez.
Crews from Santa Barbara County, Cal Fire, and the Forest Service, managed to contain 8 percent of the fire’s perimeter, according to Andrew Madsen, spokesman for the Los Padres National Forest’s Santa Lucia Ranger District.
The fire, which started near Zaca Lake at about 4 p.m. July 5, grew quickly through grass and brush as temperatures spiked from a heat wave that arrived last week. The fire continues to burn mostly inside the national forest boundary, with some flames spreading to adjacent state land.
About 20 residents around the fire area were evacuated July 5 and July 6 and firefighters were able to save their homes, Mr. Madsen said.
But county officials are now warning a neighboring community in Santa Ynez that evacuation orders could be coming.
“There’s a lot of big horse ranches, celebrities and Hollywood types who live up in that area,” Mr. Madsen told The Epoch Times. “At this time, there is no direct threat to that area but in an abundance of caution, the sheriff has issued an evacuation warning.”
The enclave has been home to President Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, Bo Derek, and others.
The fire also threatened Michael Jackson’s former Neverland Estate located about 40 miles from Santa Barbara, which sold for $22 million in 2020. An evacuation order issued by the county Sunday included the 2,700-acre property in Los Olivos, according to reports.
Fire investigators are still determining what started the blaze, which is burning in backcountry vegetation that is too rugged for crews to reach in some places, Mr. Madsen added.
Nearly 1,200 fire personnel were at the Lake Fire, helped by 10 helicopters, 86 fire engines and nine bulldozers.
The heat wave that continues to hover over most of the state this week is keeping temperatures high, even at night, which can allow the flames to spread, according to Cal Fire.
“Right now, we’re making good progress on this fire, but when it’s night when you think it’s going to cool down ... we’re still experiencing 90-degree temperatures at midnight,” Mr. Madsen said. “So, where the fire’s at ... it can still move very rapidly.”
The fire is expected to spread in the coming days with wind and record low moisture levels forecasted for the area, according to Cal Fire.
Evacuations were also ordered for residents living near the state’s second-largest current fire—the Basin Fire in the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County—which had reached over 14,000 acres Monday and was 80 percent contained, Cal Fire reported.
Temperatures reached 112 degrees in the area Sunday, with relatively low humidity.
The Thompson Fire in Butte County, which prompted the evacuation of about 16,000 residents around Oroville in Northern California last week, was nearly extinguished Monday, reaching 98 percent containment.
The latest incident, the Tesla Fire, started at about 11:15 a.m. Monday near Del Valle Road in Del Valle Regional Park in Alameda County. The fire had reached 18 acres by 2 p.m. but its forward progress was stopped quickly, according to Cal Fire. It is currently zero percent contained.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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