13 rescued, more than 70 unaccounted for in California wildfire


NEAR FRESNO, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — Efforts to rescue more than 70 people trapped by the Creek Fire are underway, after being temporarily called off early Tuesday morning, the California National Guard confirmed.

A third rescue attempt was proceeding with a Chinook helicopter around 2:30 a.m. PT Tuesday, according to Capt. Jason Sanchez.

Shortly after Sanchez confirmed the rescue attempt to NewsNation, 13 people were evacuated, according to affiliate KSEE-TV. Another 70 are believed to be unaccounted for.

On Monday night, a military helicopter couldn’t rescue the people because of the heavy smoke conditions, Fresno fire officials said.

“As of right now, we’ll be ceasing operations. Our aviation assets have not been able to access the area,” 1st Lt. Paul Han said in an early morning media briefing about the prior attempts. “We will be shutting operations for now. We are going to try again in the morning.”

In a tweet, the Fresno Fire Department confirmed the failed landing of the military helicopter and said pilots were also trying to reach other trapped people in Lake Edison and China Peak.

Earlier in the evening, Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo said there was one death. That death had no connection to the wildfire, a spokesperson with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to NewsNation.

A man collapsed due to a “medical episode,” public information officer Tony Botti said in a statement

“Life-saving measures were taken, but he ended up passing away. Due to fire conditions in the surrounding area, EMS was not able to respond to the location,” he said.

Authorities said plans are being made to fly the man’s body out once conditions improve.

The massive fast-moving Creek Fire has burned more than 135,523 acres of California’s Sierra National Forest an hour outside of Fresno. As of Monday evening, the fire was 0% contained. Forty-five homes were destroyed, and 5,296 structures were threatened, as of 7 p.m. (PT) on Monday.

Rescuers in military helicopters airlifted more than 200 people to safety over the weekend after an explosive wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area.

NewsNation affiliate KSEE contributed to this report.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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