Hundreds of Campers Trapped by Deadly Wildfire SAVED in Outrageously Daring Helicopter Rescue

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It’s Labor Day weekend. You’re heading out with the family to celebrate summer’s last hurrah. You decide to go camping at remote campground by a peaceful reservoir which is only reachable by a narrow, curving road.

Then suddenly, that place that looked like paradise turns into the location that may end up being your grave. Your peaceful weekend becomes a fight for survival.

This is exactly what happened to more than a thousand people who went camping at Mammoth Pools Reservoir this weekend in California. A fast-moving wildfire called the Creek Fire erupted and spread rapidly. The fire devoured 45,500 acres within the first 24 hours and jumped the San Joaquin River, trapping people all over the forest.


Shelter in place, even if you have to get in the water.

On Saturday, despite the mandatory evacuation, many campers were left with no way to evacuate the area, since there was only one road in and out.

“There is an immediate threat to life,” the Sheriff’s Office warned. “The area is being closed to public access. Take action immediately.”

As roads closed and the fire spread, Tune said, more than 1,000 were trapped near Mammoth Pool Reservoir, roughly 23 miles southeast of Oakhurst.

Those trapped were told to shelter in place — even if it meant getting into the water, Tune said.

A few hours later, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed at least 10 people were injured and several others remained in danger among those stranded near Mammoth Pool…

…The Creek Fire threatened a range of mountain resources, Tune said, including whole communities, structures and power lines.

”Mainly our focus is the safety of all the folks all over the forest,” Tune said, “just making sure folks are safe and get them evacuated.” (source)

But this evacuation was not going to be simple.

Numerous injuries occurred

In what must have been a terrifying scenario, numerous injuries occurred to people fleeing the fire as they made life-and-death decisions.

Many people rescued from the Creek Fire at Mammoth Pool suffered burns and broken bones, trying to escape the fire “at all costs,” according to a Fresno County official.

Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch said many of the rescued people had amazing stories to tell that included “heroics of family members helping family members.”

Helicopter crews began rescuing people trapped by the wildfire at Mammoth Pool, Cascadel Woods, and Minarets about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Crews first rescued about 60 people, who were treated for injuries at Fresno Yosemite International Airport in Fresno. By the end of the night, 218 people were rescued by helicopter, Lynch said.

About 20 victims were transported to area hospitals with injuries, including severe burns, broken bones, and other cuts and scrapes.

“Listening to the stories people were sharing, we have to assume these people were trying to escape with their lives intact. They had to make decisions that put their body in peril and caused them these injuries,” Lynch said. “They talked about there being fire on both sides of them while going down the road. There was one vehicle crash. People were stuck in the middle of flames.” (source)

Somewhere around 800 people managed to evacuate the fire, but more people remained stranded.

There was no way out.

Dennis Drake was camping with his brother’s family when they noticed smoke in the distance – about fifty miles away.

But in a matter of hours…

“We were almost completely surrounded by fire. Almost 360 degrees,” Drake says.

The Creek Fire covered 2,000 acres Saturday morning.

It ballooned to more than 73-thousand acres by Sunday night.

Drake and his brother’s family tried to drive out of harm’s way– but didn’t get far.

“There’s fires on both sides of us, we have no protection,” he says.

Everyone in the area scrambled.

The reservoir, became their haven.

“The reservoir at that point was about 40 feet down below full capacity. We know we have gravel, rocky area that’s not gonna burn,” Drake said. “Everybody’s saying, get under the water, get under the water, get under the water. We all did…

“We’re dunking every 10-15 seconds, just trying to survive.” (source)

Rescue…and survival…seemed impossible due to the intense heat and thick smoke.

Two hundred people were still cut off from rescuers.

On the other side of the lake, at least 200 people remained cut off from rescue and the possibility of evacuation. CalFire was unable to reach the campers, and that’s when the California National Guard came in with a rescue that should go down in history. From the Facebook page, ASMDSS (Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said):

Don’t know if you guys have seen this going around, but California National Guard aviators let their big brass ones hang out on this one.

Two aircrews, a Blackhawk and a Chinook Flew at night with NODs through high winds with burning embers, heavy smoke and difficult terrain to rescue over 200 people completely cut off and trapped by fire with it closing in on them last night. They made multiple trips to get everyone out.

CalFire waived them off and warned them do not go because the conditions were too dangerous. They said fuck that and went anyway.

Second pic is view from the chinook cockpit on the ground while loading first group of people.

Our hats are off to the pilots and crew. I hope they are able to get you guys wheelbarrows big enough for your cajones. (source)

Here’s the view from the cockpit mentioned in the post.

And this page wasn’t the only place with praise for the bold maneuver. General Daniel Hokanson, GEN Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. tweeted:

Colonel Dave Hall, Commander of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, says that military technology made the mission possible, particularly the night vision equipment that allowed them to see through the smoke to where the survivors were.

Hall says a Chinook Helicopter and a Black Hawk Helicopter made three trips each– sometimes carrying up to 60 people, to capacity.

“It was pretty cramped tight in there. We do not like to operate that way, but because of the circumstances of this being an urgent situation threatening life, the pilots in command made the smart decision by loading them to get on the helicopter and loading as many as they could on that lift,” Hall said. (source)

There are still people trapped by the fire.

After this extraordinary effort, there were approximately 20 people and 15 dogs left and the rescue has been difficult. The Aviation Brigade was unable to get to them when the smoke intensified further. According to the Fresno Bee: ” The California National Guard was planning a second rescue attempt Sunday night, coordinating a ground rescue that would potentially require a bulldozer to move abandoned vehicles.”

The last report I was able to find on this was from late last night. If anyone has further information (with links) please share it in the comments so I can update this article.

UPDATE: 46 remaining campers AND their dogs were rescued by helicopter on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 8.  

The inferno shows no signs of slowing down.

As of Monday morning, CalFire reports that the Creek Fire has reached 78,790 acres with zero percent containment. This fire started on September 4. As of Tuesday morning, the Visalia Times reports that the fire has burned 135,523 acres and there is still zero percent containment.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I spent 8yrs of my 20+ in the National Guard. I often questioned folks decisions at times but a fire 50 miles away is pretty far away (except in that terrain and if you know about fires in that part of the country).
    What the helo crews did was awesome. Of course it will be attempted. Those are your people, your sons, daughters, spouses and neighbors.
    Even the active military gets in on things at times. Ft Sill does SAR at the Wichita Mountains and assists with body recovery.
    The Guards missions include everything from riots, natural disasters even hauling hay in a drought.

    Had I been camping I’d probably still be standing there hoping for a Blackhawk to ride out knowing what I do about Chinooks though lol.

    Y’all stay safe. Weathers a changing today

    • Having lived in wildfire country for five years, seeing smoke from a fire in the distance is practically an everyday occurrence during fire season. If I saw a fire at that distance, I probably wouldn’t have been too rattled either. If you drove off every time you saw smoke in September in California, you’d never get anything done.

      But once they start jumping they’re fast and unpredictable. After two near-misses with wildfires, this is one of the very big reasons on the list of Why We Left California.

    • Matt in OK. NM here. Today we have a predicted high in the 50s. Yesterday was 90s. Crazy weather. Parts of the Central and eastern , northern third of our state, may see snow this evening through most of tomorrow. Usually we have a little snow in the air around Halloween. Then its nice till closer to Thanksgiving. This cold front that was moving in last night and today is quite unusual. Many areas have a freeze warning.

  • Good on the rescue crews.

    The pictures are fantastic and not in the good sense. Looks like something out of a big budget Hollywood movie.

  • We have family that was on standby evac for the past two days from the Creek Fire. A small nearby town was burning down yesterday. News crews and the owners of the marina barley made it through the fire with a fire crew escort getting away from Shaver lake. They were going to be escorted out through the area closer to dark. They had been taken out of the fire and were hoping the fire would abate so they could make another run through the fire to get totally away.
    Grew up in Napa County. By late teens i’d been a volunteer building in county fire breaks across the hilly terrain. The owner of several pieces of equipment showed me how to operate his D9 Cat. Others were there with adzes and shovels. We saved a state park with an old flourmill with a big water wheel to operated it and some nearby homes.
    We lived on a Mendocino County Indian Reservation for three years. My husband worked one summer as a fire danger assessor marking brush and dead trees for removal. Since that was all stopped by the greenies the fires have been much worse. Leaving dead and dry fuel in the forests encourages a fire’s rapid spread.

  • This should be headlined on all the news media. This shows why those in uniform should be shown respect. It sometimes takes a hellava lot of guts to “do the job”. Kudos to the crews.

  • I don’t know much of anything about flying a helicopter, but I do know fire science.

    Those pilots no doubt had to deal with tremendously difficult flying conditions. These great big fires create their own weather as oxygen is sucked in from all directions to feed the fire. And, when you’ve got weather (wind) coming from all directions and going up and down as well because of the terrain, that is a scenario that a pilot probably would want to avoid.

    No doubt these soldiers were thinking: “I have to go in, but while I hope to come out, I don’t have to come out.” That’s the thinking of a hero. Give them a big 50lb medal for each of their chests!!

  • Those Blackhawk helicopters and their rescue crews are awesome. My second son flew point for the Navy’s search and rescue for the 2004 Tsunami. They rescued a whole village off a narrow sandbar. I makes me very tearful and grateful to consider the risk these men take to save life and limb.

    In 2003, I was wakened by smoke and went to look out the window. I could see the beginnings of the Cedar Fire at the top of the ridge across the Lakeside valley three miles away. Almost immediately, the flames raced down the mountain at the speed of gravity. It burned all around the edges of our town. It was whipped up by the Santa Ana winds off the desert to the east. After 17 years, most of the foliage has made a comeback. But the former beauty of our mountains to the east is lost to this generation.

    We have the Valley fire to east of us burning now. Started by an old tractor which spontaneously combusted in the 115F heat. They are expecting the winds off the desert to kick up so it could go wonky at any time. Again. Please pray for San Diego County. We’ve done many expensive things to help keep the fire danger down. But unless state government changes it’s policy concerning the “natural course” of nature, a lot more will burn. My conservationist hub says the bad management policy has been in place for 40 years. So yeah. Here come the fires. I expect there will be more.

    • Update on the Valley Fire in San Diego: Slowed way down and should be contained sooner than anticipated. The predicted Santa Ana winds off the desert have come to nothing so far and a cool, moist marine layer came in over night to dampen things a bit.

  • This morning’s news said National Guard crews were going to try to get the remaining stranded campers today. Here’s a video of them arriving in Fresno via helicopter an hour or so ago. Those folks will be telling that story for a long time. They’re lucky to be alive!

  • OH,HAIL THE US AIR FORCE AND THEIR DEW WEAPONS BEING USED ON THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA,burning the forests in america to the ground,..THE DENVER AIR PORT has it all in their murals on the walls,KILL ALL THE WILDLIFE,and BURN THE FORESTS,my and everyone thinks these DEVILS ARE HERO’S,and when the time comes to run from the invading armies THE FORESTS WILL ALL BE GONE along with the wildlife who used to live there..OH YEA,HAIL TO SATAN AND HIS MINIONS,..THE US MILITARY…EVERY BELL there is are ringing,yet no one cares enough to try to stop the destruction by their own government,and there are DOZENS of video’s showing the DEW WEAPONS STARTING THE FIRES…

    • Just think about it . . . . In spite of all the booger-men who live under every bed, there are every-day peeps who do not hide in the dark. There are people who openly and courageously fight the odds for a rescue. It is refreshing and heartwarming to know there are real heroes as opposed to the cowards who come out at night in the name of an ill-conceived, vengeful, bullsh!t, globalist-inspired revolution. The contrast is astonishing. There is no tyranny in this story.

    • Or some idiot using tannerite to impress the Jones on social media started it.
      Air Farce DEW weapons lol wow lol
      You missed a few caps

      • They should make a character in the next Tremors movie based on you AZ. As a technical advisor you’d make good money.
        OR IS it JUST A movie Bahm Bahm BUUM!?!

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