BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Federal fire officials accelerated their attack Sunday on a smoky wildfire that threatened more than 500 homes in central California as they raced to control the fast-moving blaze before hotter, drier weather sets in, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said.
The fire burning in and around the Sequoia National Forest doubled in size overnight and came within a mile of a community about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield where sheriff’s deputies walked the streets with bullhorns and knocked on doors as they urged residents to evacuate, authorities said.
“They were out there walking the streets through the night,” Forest Service spokeswoman Cindy Thill said. “I just got off the phone with someone who said the sheriffs got to them at 2 this morning.”
The Shirley fire had burned 3.1 square miles of bone-dry trees, grass and chaparral and destroyed at least two structures, fire spokesman Jay Nichols said.
The blaze, which broke out Friday night, was 10 percent contained. It was fanned Sunday afternoon by 17- to 20-mph wind gusts at the mountain ridges, Nichols said.
He said fire officials anticipated that the blaze will spread toward the evacuated homes in Wofford Heights, a community sandwiched between the fire and Lake Isabella, a popular recreation spot.
More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze in steep, rugged terrain. They were aided by retardant-dropping air tankers and water-dropping helicopters that can fly throughout the night.
More fire crews were expected to join the fight. Authorities planned to keep the augmented crews working through a “swing shift” so they don’t lose any time during shift changes to make progress, Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Chapman said.
“Our current outlook for the forecast is such that we are really ramping up suppression operations over the next couple of days because it’s going to be even hotter and drier at the end of the week,” she said.
The Forest Service said camping, horseback riding, rafting and other activities in the Sequoia district were so far unaffected by the blaze.