Military helicopters tried unsuccessfully to rescue around 50 people trapped by wildfires in California on Monday night, but were beaten back by heavy smoke.
The group of hikers and campers remain trapped by Lake Edison, 250 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra National Forest.
At least one person has died, said Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo, and warned there may be multiple casualties.
‘Rescue efforts were unsuccessful, military pilots tried valiantly to land but heavy smoke conditions prevented a safe approach,’ the fire department tweeted.
‘Another effort will be made shortly to evacuate the trapped people in Lake Edison and China Peak using night vision.’
Monday’s frantic rescue attempt came as wildfires blazed across swathes of the western United States on Monday night, destroying homes and devastating forests and grasslands, as record high temperatures and strong winds made the task of fire fighters even more challenging.
In California, 14,100 fire fighters were battling 24 separate blazes, which have collectively destroyed 2 million acres.
The Creek Fire burns along a hillside in the Cascadel Woods community of Madera County on Monday
Smoke from the Creek Fire envelopes trees in the Cascadel Woods community of Madera County on Monday
A firefighter stands in front of an engine on Highway 168 as crews monitor the advance of the Creek Fire on Monday
In California 14,100 fire fighters are battling 24 separate blazes, which have collectively destroyed 2 million acres
The fire spread from the El Dorado Ranch Park north, onto the Yucaipa Ridge and into the San Bernardino National Forest
In Washington state, a small town of 300 people saw 80 per cent of the homes destroyed.
And in Oregon and Idaho, fires close to power lines shut off the electricity, adding to the misery amid the heatwave.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, on Sunday night declared a state of emergency as his hard-hit state struggled to beat back the blazes.
Among the most devastating fires was one in northern California, caused by lightning, which was burning through Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Solano counties.
The LNU Lightning Complex began on August 17 and has so far burnt 375,209 acres, killing four people. The fire is now 91 per cent contained.
Among the most dramatic on Monday was the Creek Fire, which was first sparked on Friday evening and quickly exploded to 135,523 acres – doubling in size again within a day.
The Creek Fire – which trapped the Lake Edison campers – currently has 0 per cent containment, Cal Fire said, and is being fought by almost 1,000 fire fighters.
The fire is located near the communities of Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Huntington Lake.
Over the weekend the Creek Fire trapped a further 214 people, who had to be rescued by helicopter after the roads were blocked.
Starting on Saturday night lasting into Sunday morning, a Black Hawk helicopter and a large Chinook helicopter flew the 214 people to the National Guard base at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
The two aircrafts conducted three lifts from the Mammoth Pool Reservoir along the Fresno/Madera County border, the National Guard said.
Once at the base, emergency medical workers helped triage and take the injured to local hospitals, including Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC).
Twenty of them were to nearby hospitals and six are in CRMC’s burn unit, EMS officials told Action News.
Some outdoor shelters near Shaver Lake were engulfed with flames (pictured) as authorities ordered people to evacuate
The Creek Fire also claimed at least two dozen homes in the small mountain town of Big Creek, a fire official said on Monday.
Chris Donnelly, the longtime chief of the volunteer fire department in the nearby town of Huntington Lake, said three propane tanks totaling 11,000 gallons exploded, and an elementary school also caught fire – although it wasn’t clear whether it burned.
The school’s superintendent, Toby Wait, told The Fresno Bee that a church, a library and a historic general store appear to have survived the fire, although Wait’s home burned after his family was evacuated early Saturday.
‘Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community,’ he told the newspaper.
Jim Smart is among thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes as wildfires rage across the western U.S.
Jim Smart rests on the back of his vehicle after evacuating from the Creek Fire on Monday with two of his prized motorcycles
A father and his son look at a fire truck as they wait to be evacuated from the Creek Fire on Monday
Seth Sandstrom rushes to repair a dock that separated as the Creek Fire approaches the Sierra Marina with 430 boats docked
The California National Guard flies overhead the August Complex Fires in video posted online on Monday
Firefighters walk through the site near Shaver Lake as they continue to battle against the Creek Fire which started on Friday
The Creek Fire has rapidly increased in size, and is currently being fought by 800 fire fighters from across the region
In southern California, the El Dorado wildfire was sparked on Saturday by a gender reveal party, when the pyrotechnical smoke device sent sparks into the bone-dry brush.
The fire has burned 7,386 acres so far, and is only seven per cent contained.
More than 520 firefighters are involved in attempts to stop the spread of the fire, near San Bernardino.
The fire spread rapidly north from where it started at the El Dorado Ranch Park north, onto the Yucaipa Ridge
The wildfire is pictured moving up the hillsides of San Bernardino National Forest on Sunday
Satellite images on Saturday gave a sense of the scale of the El Dorado fire, which was started by a gender reveal party
Burnt vegetation remains after the El Dorado Fire near Yucaipa on Monday – a fire started by a gender reveal party
North of California, in Washington state, the town of Malden was almost entirely destroyed.
Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said that 70-80 per cent of homes in the town of 300 people have gone up in flames.
Local news network KREM showed pictured of the charred Malden post office, a fire still burning inside the gutted building.
Larry Frick, who lives in Malden, told KXLY that he spent three hours to save his house amid the flames.
‘It’s gone, brother,’ he texted his sibling after the fire swept through.
‘The entire town is gone. Everything from here to Pine City is gone. The scariest time of my life.’
KREM said that at least nine wildfires were burning throughout the Inland Northwest on Monday, amid dry and windy conditions.
Washington’s wildfires had also spread to neighboring Idaho.
Evacuations were being ordered around the town of Blanchard, as a result of the Hunters Fire.
Adding to the misery, more than 60,000 electric customers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington were without power on Monday afternoon, as high winds blew over trees, snapping power lines.
The downed electricity lines further added to fears of wildfires.
Smoke envelopes the downtown Denver skyline as winds carry the smoky air from the Cameron Peak Fire in Colorado
Red Cross volunteer Faith Reihing stands outside a pop-up shelter for evacuees from Cameron Peak wildfire, Colorado
Californian wildfires obscure the sun in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Monday evening
In southern California, near San Diego, the Valley Fire (pictured) begun on Saturday afternoon and has spread rapidly
Buildings were consumed by fire on Monday as the Creek Fire raged out of control in northern California
A firefighter is pictured tackling the Creek Fire near Camp Sierra Road and Redding Road on Monday
Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, declared a state of emergency on Sunday as 24 wildfires blazed
The Creek Fire (pictured), in Fresno County, California, has sent rivers of fire surging through the Sierra National Forest
The Creek Fire has consumed at least 73,000 acres since the sparks were first lit on Friday evening
Firefighters are pictured dousing the Creek Fire with water near Shaver Lake in northern California on Monday
Hot and dry conditions, coupled with strong winds, are making the task of fighting the Creek Fire (pictured) even harder
A firefighter is silhouetted against the blazing forest as he battles the Creek Fire in northern California on Monday
Firefighters, pictured on Monday, have been working around the clock to put out the Creek Fire in northern California
The Creek Fire (pictured) is currently blazing across the Sierra National Forest, 250 miles east from San Francisco
The Creek Fire began on Friday evening and trapped hikers across the region, with rescues needed all weekend
The Creek Fire blazes near Shaver Lake in Fresno County, California – destroying homes and killing at least one person
The Cameron Peak Fire, west of Fort Collins in Colorado, is now one of the largest wildfires in the state’s history
A satellite map from Monday afternoon shows the scale of the wildfires, carpeting much of the Pacific Northwest with smoke
Houses are pictured going up in flames in Malden, Washington, on Sunday as wildfires destroy parts of the northwest
Malden, a town of 300 people in Washington, has been largely wiped out by the wildfires that have swept the region
A wildfire has destroyed an estimated 70-80 per cent of the homes in Malden, Washington, it emerged on Monday