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Tearing through the parched Sierra National Forest in Central California, the Creek Fire exploded into a fierce inferno over the weekend, devouring forest land and trapping hundreds of people. Below is an overview of this monstrous blaze.

Location: The fire started near Big Creek and Huntington Lake in Fresno County, about 300 miles north of Los Angeles, on Friday, Sept. 4, just after o p.m.

On Saturday afternoon the blaze exploded in size, jumping the San Joaquin River and cutting off the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground trapping some 200 people. The fire also cut off an exit route to Shaver Lake where a group at the boat ramp was escorted to safety.

The blaze continues to rage around Shaver and Huntington lakes, and these areas are under mandatory evacuation orders.

Officials hope to keep the fire from pushing west toward Yosemite National Park.

Fnaf PictureSince starting Friday, the Creek Fire has consumed 152,833 acres as of early Wednesday morning, PlayStation 4 console controller gaming headset. The fire has zero containment.

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Potential full containment date: In its most recent incident update posted Tuesday morning, Cal Fire said it expected to have the Creek Fire fully contained by Oct. 15, 2020.

Cause: Under investigation

Damage update: Three hundred and sixty structures have been destroyed as of Wednesday morning; of those, 60 are single-family homes. Firefighters are trying to protect 5,296 threatened structures.

Firefighters working in steep terrain saved the tiny town of Shaver Lake from flames that roared down hillsides toward a marina. About 30 houses were destroyed in the remote hamlet of Big Creek, resident Toby Wait said.

“About half the private homes in town burned down,” he said. “Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community.”

A school, church, library, historic general store and a major hydroelectric plant were spared in the community of about 200 residents, Wait told the Fresno Bee.

Casualties and rescues: There have been no fatalities.

Early Tuesday, California National Guard and Navy helicopters rescued 13 people from the China Peak area and 22 from Lake Edison and flew them to Fresno Air Terminal, the Guard said. The rescue flights were thwarted earlier by heavy smoke Monday night.

On Saturday, National Guard rescuers in two military helicopters airlifted 214 people to safety after flames trapped them in a wooded camping area near Mammoth Pool Reservoir. Two people were seriously injured and were among the 12 total individuals hospitalized.

Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Rosamond, the pilot of a Chinook helicopter, said visibility was poor and winds increasingly strong during the three flights he made into the fire zone during the operation that started late Saturday and stretched into Sunday. His crew relied on night-vision goggles to search for a landing spot near a boat launch where flames came within 50 feet of the aircraft.

The injured, along with women and children, took priority on the first airlift, which filled both helicopters to capacity, he said.

“We started getting information about how many people were out there, how many people to expect, and that number kept growing. So we knew that it was a dire situation,” Rosamond said.

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Air quality: The Creek Fire is pumping out massive amounts of smoke spreading throughout California.

The National Weather Service shared a satellite image Tuesday showing nearly all of California blanketed in wildfire smoke. This is due to the Creek Fire and multiple other blazes around the state. The air quality in a large area stretching from north to south along the Sierra Nevada was at a "hazardous" level Tuesday morning.

Smoke from the Creek Fire is expected to impact the Bay Area. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has a Spare the Air Alert in effect through Wednesday, which makes it illegal to burn wood or wood products.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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Amy Graff is the news editor for SFGATE.