California wildfires burn more than 50,000 acres as crews make gains on containment

A series of wildfires continued to burn throughout California on Tuesday as flames charred more than 50,000 acres and occupied the efforts of nearly 3,000 firefighters, authorities said. 

The Erskine fire in Kern County, the largest of the fires, has burned 48,019 acres and claimed two lives since it began near Lake Isabella last month. The blaze was 95% contained as of Monday morning. Officials said a team will patrol the perimeter of the fire. 

In addition to the Erskine fire, three other major wildfires continue to burn in the state — many of them a result of hot and dry weather that developed across Southern California last month. The San Gabriel complex fire — which is two separate fires — as well as numerous smaller fires chewed through dry vegetation. Conditions are expected to continue to support large fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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A mass die-off of vegetation — especially in the Sierras, where an estimated 66 million trees are dead or are dying because of the drought and an outbreak of bark beetle — will only ripen fire conditions, the fire center said.

The Pine fire, which has burned 1,814 acres, is 15% contained. Hundreds of firefighters continued to battle the blaze, which started Thursday morning about 11 miles north of Ojai in the Sespe Wilderness. 

The U.S. Forest Service said it is using pack mules to supply firefighters who are sleeping and eating near the fire. Each mule carries about 150 pounds of gear, which will be used for restocking the firefighters on the line. The pack string makes its way from a trailhead in Rose Valley, leaving early in the morning and returning again in the afternoon.

While there are no mandatory evacuations, there are voluntary evacuations of the Camp Scheideck community. Reyes Creek Campground is closed to the public because of potential fire hazards.

Crews also continue to work on mop-up operations along the perimeter of the Pony fire burning in Klamath National Forest about 15 miles southwest of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County.  As of Tuesday morning, the fire has burned 2,858 acres and is 90% contained.

The Trailhead fire, which began in the Middle Fork of the American River Canyon in Placer county and spread to Dorado County and the El Dorado National Forest, scorched 5,565 acres and is 50% contained.

Firefighters expect to have the flames fully contained by the weekend.

sarah.parvini@latimes.com

For more local and breaking news follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini

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UPDATES:

11:43 a.m.: This article was updated with details about the U.S. Forest Service using pack mules to supply the firefighters. 

This article was originally published at 10:15 a.m.

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