SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. – Juliana Park was lucky to escape a wildfire raging through the Sierra National Forest over the weekend and she shared a harrowing video clip of her escaping the gauntlet of flames.
“A backpacking trip cut short by unforeseen thunder, ash rain, and having to drive through literal fire to evacuate #SierraNationalForest in time,” she tweeted on Saturday. “Grateful to the SNF ranger who led us down… wish we we got her name.”
Park was one of the hundreds of campers who were forced to flee from the popular forest because of an explosive Creek Fire that erupted over the weekend and was burning near Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake and Big Creek in the rugged foothills of eastern Fresno County.
She was able to drive out, but more than 200 others had to be airlifted out by Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.
The California Office of Emergency Services said the rescues began late Saturday and continued into Sunday morning at Mammoth Pool Reservoir. At least two people were severely injured and 10 more suffered moderate injuries. Two campers refused rescue and stayed behind, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said, and there was no immediate word on their fates.
A photo tweeted by the California National Guard showed more than 20 evacuees packed tightly inside one helicopter, some crouched on the floor clutching their belongings. In another photo taken on the ground from a helicopter cockpit, the densely wooded hills surrounding the aircraft were in flames.
The blaze dubbed the Creek Fire has charred more than 71 square miles of timber, and the 800 firefighters on the scene had yet to get any containment after two days of work on steep terrain in the sweltering heat. Some homes and businesses have burned, but there was no official tabulation yet.
As for Park, she said she and her friends got home safe. She is now thinking and praying for the first responders in the area.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.