On Tuesday, 14 firefighters trying to protect the Nacimiento Fire Station in California's Los Padres National Forest were overtaken by flames, and one is now in critical condition at a Fresno hospital, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The firefighters all suffered burns and smoke inhalation, and two others were also airlifted to the hospital, where they are in fair condition. The station was destroyed. The fire broke out several weeks ago and has been burning ever since, but doubled in size overnight, The Associated Press reports. A man has been arrested and charged with arson in connection with the blaze.
So far this year, fires have scorched nearly 2.3 million acres across California. There are more than 24 major fires now burning in the state, and at least 14,000 firefighters are battling the blazes. Rescuers also helped get 164 hikers out of the Sierra National Forest early Tuesday, using military helicopters to airlift them out of danger. Due to the Creek Fire, the only road into the Vermilion Valley Resort was closed on Sunday, trapping the hikers.
"This is emblematic of how fast that fire was moving, plus the physical geography of that environment with one road in and one road out," Char Miller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College, told AP. "It's scary enough to drive there when nothing is burning. Unless you wanted an absolute human disaster, you had to move fast."