An erratic and ferocious wildfire is wreaking havoc on Northern California.
On Saturday, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents living in the Hidden Valley Lake Community, Lake County, an area about an hour outside the state capital of Sacramento. About 6,000 residents live in the area.
The evacuations came shortly after officials said that four firefighters attempting to contain the blaze suffered serious burns, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The firefighters were reportedly airlifted to a nearby hospital, but their conditions were not immediately released.
The so-called Butte Fire began burning Wednesday in Calaveras County. On Friday, it began traveling north to the Lake County area. Firefighters had hoped to contain the blaze by the end of the week, but a mix of dry heat and fast winds stymied their efforts.
“The flames kept up their momentum overnight Friday, ballooning from 32,000 acres to 65,000 acres by Saturday morning,” Dan Berlant, a California fire official, said, NBC reports.
On Friday afternoon, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, demanding that over 2,700 residents in the area evacuate. "It's expanding like a balloon," state fire spokeswoman Nancy Longmore told AP. "It's moving very fast. There's many homes threatened. ... This fire is extremely dangerous."
Thanks to a long-running statewide drought, California has experienced one of its worst years of wildfires. With little rain, many of the forests in Northern California have dried out, resulting in a highly dangerous tinderbox effect.
Mike Mohler, a fire captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the conditions are “explosive.”
"Five years ago, without a drought in California, you would still get wildland fires,” he told NBC. “But the vegetation wouldn't burn as quickly. Now there's zero moisture and you get explosive fire growth."