LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. — A voracious and deadly wildfire in central California has burned 150 homes and the toll may rise, fire officials said Saturday.
The number rose from 80 homes as firefighters began going through neighborhoods to count houses and mobile homes incinerated by the blaze.
Entire blocks were reduced to rubble, and at least 2,500 homes remained threatened.
Weather conditions that drove the fire through small southern Sierra Nevada communities with terrifying speed remained a worry, with low humidity and 30 mph steady winds forecast. "That's something we have to keep an eye on. It could spark another disaster," Kern County fire engineer Anthony Romero said.
About 1,100 firefighters battled the flames.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the fire and to clean up in the aftermath. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also authorized the use of funds for firefighting efforts.
Since it began Thursday, the fire has swept through 35,711 acres — nearly 56 square miles — of parched brush and timber. It moved so quickly that some residents barely had time to escape — and two didn't.
An elderly couple apparently were overcome by smoke as they tried to flee, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. Their bodies were found Friday, but their names hadn't been released.
Everett Evans, 45, fled Thursday as the fire came down a mountain with a roar toward his South Lake mobile home.
"When you hear a freight train, it's time to leave. You could hear it, you could see it, you could smell it," he said.
Evans said he knocked on doors to get neighbors to leave. Evans and his father, his son and his son's girlfriend were in the convoy.
But he has nothing left to come back to. Virtually no homes survived in his neighborhood.
Evans hadn't been allowed back to the home but said he lost mementos and photos from his former marriage and years in the Marine Corps.
"That's all memories. You get to keep your life but you lose your memories," he said.