Watch CBS News

Firefighter killed in California blaze is mourned as wildfires rage on

Firefighter dies battling California wildfire
Firefighter dies in California wildfire sparked by gender reveal 02:58

Winds picking up in Southern California forced more residents to evacuate Friday as relentless wildfires continued to burn across the West. One fire in the region, the Bobcat Fire, destroyed homes after being pushed into the community of Juniper Hills – after burning for almost two weeks. 

Another blaze was linked to the death of a firefighter who went missing this week in the San Bernardino National Forest while battling the El Dorado Fire, which was started by botched pyrotechnics at a gender reveal party.

The firefighter was later found dead, officials said, and crews escorted the body out of the fire zone in a solemn Friday procession.

"Something like this was not supposed to happen, but it did," a California woman told CBS News' Lilia Luciano.

Another man called the firefighter's death "heartbreaking."

"You just pray something like this doesn't happen," he said.

Western Wildfires
This image taken from video and provided by the Orange County Fire Authority shows a firefighter saluting as a procession carrying a fallen firefighter passes by at the El Dorado Fire in Southern California, September 18, 2020.  Orange County Fire Authority via AP

Blazes in the state have so far destroyed 3.5 million acres, while Washington state has seen two weeks of historic fires. 

An official called the 72 hours after Labor Day, when the fires began, her "worst nightmare."

"Over 56 fires on the first day of Labor Day," Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. "And literally 600,000 acres burned in 72 hours. That's five times the amount of acres that burned in all of 2019." 

Meanwhile, Oregon residents near Salem were allowed to return home, but were warned a nearly 200,000-acre fire could burn through Halloween. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.