Deadly California wildfire spreads, 1,500 structures threatened

2 Killed, 1,500 Structures Threatened By Erskine Fire; Containment At 5 Percent
2 Killed, 1,500 Structures Threatened By Erskine Fire; Containment At 5 Percent

(Reuters) - A California wildfire that has killed two people and destroyed about 100 structures has spread and is threatening about 1,500 structures, fire officials said on Saturday.

About 800 firefighters have been deployed to battle the so-called Erskine Fire, which broke out on Thursday afternoon in the foothills of Kern County about 40 miles (65 km) northeast of Bakersfield.

The fire, one of the worst in an already intense California fire season, is estimated to be about 35,700 acres (14,450 hectares) in size and there is zero percent containment, fire officials told people at an evacuation shelter in comments they broadcast over the internet.

The fire, fueled by chaparral and short grass on parched lands, has caused hundreds of people to flee their homes for safety ahead of the flames.

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The blaze has also sent three firefighters to the hospital for smoke inhalation. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Kern County.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told a Friday evening press conference that two people had been killed in the inferno and more fatalities could be discovered once authorities are able to search burned-out neighborhoods.

"My heart goes out to everyone here who has lost a home and my heart goes out to the family that perished yesterday in the fire," Sergeant Henry Bravo of the sheriff's office told evacuees on Saturday.

To the south, firefighters were struggling to manage the so-called San Gabriel Complex fire in the foothills of Los Angeles County. There were two fires that started on Friday and cover a combined 5,285 acres (2,139 hectares), fire officials said. Containment was at nearly 50 percent for both blazes.