A Bay Area woman’s camping trip turned into a race to outrun the Creek Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest.
The fast-moving blaze outside Yosemite has already burned more than 78,000 acres and forced the National Guard to airlift hundreds of campers to safety over the weekend.
“This is the closest near death experience I’ve had,” said Julianna Park of Mountain View.
She and five friends had just begun their Labor Day weekend backpacking trip when they heard thunder and decided to turn around and hike back two hours to their cars as ash started raining down on them.
“We saw them lit up with fire. It looked like thousands of ends of a cigarette butt,” the 24-year-old said.
Once they reached the SUV, they drove for an hour before running into a ranger who told them they had to turn around. She then led them to safety in her truck.
“I’m just grateful that ranger was there, she saved our lives,” Park said.
The National Guard was also busy saving lives in the fire zone, using black hawk helicopters to airlift more than 200 trapped people out of the flames.
Many were campers left with no other options when the fire cut off the only road out.
“When they became trapped, they were doing what they could to rescue themselves and make themselves safe some of which resulted in injuries including both broken bones, laceration scrapes, bruises, those kinds of things,” said Ted Semonious from the Fresno Fire Department.
About 20 more were rescued by rangers on foot Monday. And now Park, and many more, are left counting their blessings.
“We are all grateful to be home safe and sound,” she said.