More than a dozen California firefighters trying to protect a fire station in rugged mountains were overrun by flames on Tuesday, leaving several injured.
Fourteen firefighters deployed emergency shelters as flames overtook them and destroyed the Nacimiento Station in the Los Padres National Forest on the state’s central coast, the US Forest Service said.
They suffered from burns and smoke inhalation, and three were flown to a hospital in Fresno, where one was in a critical condition.
The injuries came as wind-driven flames of more than two dozen major fires chewed through bone-dry California and forced new evacuations after a scorching Labour Day weekend that saw a dramatic airlift of more than 200 people.
Pilots wearing night-vision goggles to find a place to land before dawn pulled another 164 people from the Sierra National Forest and were working to rescue 17 others on Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
“It’s where training meets the moment, but it always takes the courage, the conviction and the grit of real people doing real work,” Mr Newsom said.
California has already set a record with nearly 2.3 million acres burned this year, and the worst part of the wildfire season is just beginning.
The previous acreage record was set just two years ago and included the deadliest wildfire in state history, which was started by power lines and swept through the community of Paradise, killing 85 people.
More than 14,000 firefighters were battling fires around the state.
Two of the three largest blazes in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area, though they are largely contained after burning for three weeks.
California was not alone: hurricane-force winds and high temperatures kicked up wildfires across parts of the Pacific Northwest over the holiday weekend, burning hundreds of thousands of acres and mostly destroying the small town of Malden in eastern Washington.
In Southern California, fires burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
The US Forest Service on Monday decided to close all eight national forests in the southern half of the state and shutter campgrounds statewide.
Arson is suspected as the cause of the blaze that injured the firefighters above the scenic Big Sur coastal region.
The fire had been burning for weeks, but doubled in size overnight.
Police arrested a Fresno man on August 19 near the fire’s starting point.
His charges include arson of forestland and illegal marijuana cultivation. He is being held on $2 million (£1.54 million) bail.