275 structures have been destroyed or damaged in the 45,388 acre Erskine wildfire that continued sweeping through California’s Central Valley on Monday — while some evacuations were lifted for some of the area’s residents.
Two members of St. Peter’s Anglican Church may have perished in the blaze. Parishioners observed a moment of silence for the two, who were said to be the oldest in their small congregation, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The identities of those who perished had yet to be confirmed, but authorities cited in the report indicated that their deaths were due to smoke inhalation. An additional set of remains appears to have been discovered in South Lake.
As of Monday morning, the fire was 40 percent contained, with over 2,000 personnel involved in the effort to fight back the flames. An Incident Information System post shows that the fire is expected to be contained by Thursday.
Kern County spokesman Anthony Romero told evacuated area residents on Sunday that they would not be allowed back into their homes until conditions are safe. The Times reported that Romero cited the lack of water and power at many of the areas people are looking to return to, as well as hazardous substances such as asbestos on many of the properties.
An update at 11:45 a.m. on Monday stated (original emphasis):
The Fire Management Team has lifted some of the Evacuation Orders, which will allow for people to return to their homes at 12:00 PM today to the following areas: Yankee Canyon and Mountain Mesa (Note there is no power to these areas and bottled water will be available). Areas East of South Lake along Hwy 178, Larson Tract, Navajo, Hillview Acres, Bella Vista, Weldon (Note these areas have electrical power).
Two communities remain off limits: Squirrel Valley and South Lake.
Warnings have been previously issued against private parties flying drones over fire areas. The warnings include notifications that drone activity forces a halt to aerial firefighting efforts. A drone spotted on Saturday forced “air operations to be grounded for a period of time.”
The Erskine Fire spans the Lake Isabella area in Kern County. The cause has yet to be determined.
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