California wildfire started by smoke device at gender-reveal party

7 September 2020, 09:52

Dozens of fires are ripping across California amid record-breaking temperatures
Dozens of fires are ripping across California amid record-breaking temperatures. Picture: PA

A smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used at a gender-reveal party is believed to have started a wildfire currently burning across Southern California, according to local authorities.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said on Monday that the device was believed to be the reason behind the El Dorado Fire, which started on Saturday morning.

It has so far forced evacuations in the San Diego and San Bernardino counties and has burned across 7,000 acres of land.

But this fire is just one of dozens currently tearing across the US state amid record-breaking temperatures that have brought strain to the local electrical grid, heightening fears that power outages could affect millions of people.

Tens of thousands of acres have been burned in the fires
Tens of thousands of acres have been burned in the fires. Picture: PA

Over the weekend, 207 people had to be airlifted to safety by military helicopters after one fire left them trapped in a popular camping area in the Sierra National Forest.

The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used to launch the rescue, which began late on Saturday and continued into the following day.

At least two campers were severely injured in the incident, while ten more suffered moderate injuries.

Two people stayed behind after refusing rescue, according to Madera County Sheriff's Office.

Their fates are not currently known.

Dubbed the Creek Fire, the blaze has currently burned more than 45,000 acres of timber and has nearly 1,000 firefighters working on containment.

California is currently seeing record-breaking temperatures across the state, with Los Angeles County hitting a high of 49.4C in the Woodland Hills area of the San Fernando Valley.

In central Los Angeles, there was high of 44C reached.

These temperatures are rivalling the high recorded in Death Valley, which is usually the hottest place in the country.

In San Francisco, a record was set at 37.7C - a five-degree increase on the previous high.

"By our calculations, over 99% of California's population is under an Excessive Heat Warning or Heat Advisory today," the weather service in Sacramento said.