Two killed, 100 homes destroyed by fast-moving California wildfire

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2 Die In Kern County Wildfire

KERN COUNTY, Calif., June 24 (Reuters) - A fast-moving central California wildfire that more than doubled in size on Friday has killed two people and destroyed 100 structures, prompting Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for a fire-ravaged county.

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The so-called Erskine Fire broke out on Thursday afternoon in the foothills of Kern County about 42 miles (68 km) northeast of Bakersfield, and three firefighters were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, officials said.

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Los Angeles-area wildfire, late June
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Los Angeles-area wildfire, late June
A Los Angeles County fire helicopter makes a night drop while battling the so-called Fish Fire above Azusa, California, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Smoke from two fires burning in the Angeles National Forest rises with the downtown skyline in the foreground in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan ALcorn TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Los Angeles County Fire Department water dropping helicopter flies over one of two wildfires in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa, California, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A layer of haze shrouds downtown Los Angeles early Wednesday morning on June 22, 2016. For days, wildfires have raged amid spiking heat across Southern California and much of the West, driving hundreds of people from their homes. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Horses are seen before they are evacuated from a ranch as a wildfire is burning along a hillside in Azusa, Calif., Monday, June 20, 2016. New wildfires erupted Monday near Los Angeles and chased people from their suburban homes as an intense heatwave stretching from the West Coast to New Mexico blistered the region. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A firefighting plane makes a water drop on a hill near a wildfire in Duarte, Calif., Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Surging wildfires on Tuesday forced new evacuations of hundreds of homes across the West, while firefighters worked to beat back a pair of huge adjacent blazes looming over suburban Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A dead tree is enshrouded in smoke June 20, 2016 in Duarte, as twin fires which have already scorched more than 3,500 acres and forced evacuations continue to burn with zero percent containment in the San Gabriel Valley, northeast of Los Angeles. / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Cars drive west on the 210 freeway in Pasadena, California as heavy smoke from the Reservoir Fire and the Morris Fire is seen in San Gabriel mountains northeast of Los Angeles in the Angeles National Forest, June 20, 2016. (AFP / ROBYN BECK)
DUARTE, CA - JUNE 20: -- Daniel Medina, 14, helps load the car of important belongings as a wild fire crested the ridgeline near his house. Firefighters in the air and on the ground work to control a fire that broke out in Duarte. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 20: Smoke from the Fish Fire in the Angeles National Forest near Duarte, California is seen beyond a cross on June 20, 2016 in Pasadena, California. The Fish Fire and nearby Reservoir Fire exploded to 2,000 acres in the first few hours as southern California swelters under a heat wave that is breaking record-high temperatures across the American Southwest. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A Los Angeles County fire helicopter makes a night drop while battling the so-called Fish Fire above Azusa, California, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Los Angeles County Fire Department pumper truck is seen near one of two wildfires in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa, California, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Firefighters watch a wildfire in Azusa, Calif., Monday, June 20, 2016. New wildfires erupted Monday near Los Angeles and chased people from their suburban homes as an intense heatwave stretching from the West Coast to New Mexico blistered the region. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A Los Angeles County firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on a hill near a wildfire in Duarte, Calif. Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Firefighters worked to make gains against Southern California wildfires as an intense heat wave eased slightly Tuesday, but officials warned nearby communities to stay alert and obey any evacuation orders. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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The fire has led hundreds of residents to evacuate and authorities were weighing whether to expand evacuation orders in the rural area of the state. The Kern County Fire Department said on Friday afternoon two people had died, though it did not identify the people or release further details. Officials said they were not firefighters.

High temperatures likely to surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) on Friday and bone-dry vegetation from a five-year California drought were stoking flames.

"Everything is just working into a perfect storm," Kern County fire Captain Mike Nicholas said in a phone interview.

On Friday, authorities warned the more than 3,000 residents of the community of Lake Isabella on the shore of a reservoir to be prepared to evacuate.

Southeast of Lake Isabella, dozens of burned-out homes and car frames could be seen in a neighborhood reduced to a field of mangled metal and collapsed roofs. Two groups of residents picked through the rubble while firefighters worked in the area.

Brown issued an emergency proclamation on Friday for Kern County.

The rapidly expanding blaze 150 miles (241 km) north of Los Angeles has destroyed 100 structures, including homes, outbuildings and detached garages, Nicholas said.

Another 1,500 structures were threatened.

The estimated size of the fire jumped from 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) early on Friday to more than 19,000 acres (7,689 hectares) before noon local time, Nicholas said.

Morgan Rivers, an evacuee from the blaze, told Los Angeles television station KABC she lost the house that belonged to her late grandmother.

"It's fully mine now and I just lost it after getting it last year," Rivers told the station.

A contingent of 600 firefighters was battling the blaze with hundreds more en route, according to the government fire tracking website InciWeb.

"Our firefighters have been engaged in a firefight of epic proportions, trying to save every structure possible," Kern County Fire Department Brian Marshall said at a news conference.

The fire did not appear to threaten Sequoia National Forest to the north, Nicholas said.

The blaze, which was 0 percent contained, was one of several large wildfires burning in parched California.

To the south, firefighters were struggling to manage the so-called San Gabriel Complex fire in the foothills of Los Angeles County.

As of Friday, it had burned over 5,600 acres (2,266 hectares) of chaparral and short grass, and containment lines were drawn around 30 percent of its perimeter, according to InciWeb. (Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Laila Kearney in New York, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)


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