Deadly Erskine Fire in Kern County grows to 35,711 acres, destroys 150 homes

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KABC) -- The massive wildfire in Kern County, dubbed the Erskine Fire, has burned through 35,711 acres and destroyed 150 homes, according to CalFire officials Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, the Kern County Sheriff's Office said it was investigating possible human remains found in South Lake, a small community in the Kern River Valley. A coroner's investigator was being brought to the location in the 4100 block of Fiddleneck Street to determine if the remains were indeed human, ABC affiliate KERO reported.

"At this point we haven't confirmed if the remains are human or not," a sheriff's official said. "We are going to maintain the scene and treat it as a homicide scene until we determine otherwise."

The blaze has forced hundreds of evacuations in rural communities. About 75 other homes were damaged by the fire, which is now considered the biggest California wildfire of 2016 so far.

In Squirrel Valley, the fire claimed two lives. Neighbors said an elderly couple who had medical problems did not escape the fast-moving fire. The victims were not yet identified.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Kern County for the fire Friday night.

It exploded in size quickly after breaking out near Lake Isabella around 4 p.m. Thursday. By evening, it had burned through 5,000 acres due to low humidity and high heat conditions. It tripled in size by Friday night.

About 2,500 structures are threatened by the blaze, fire officials said. Residents who were evacuated described a frantic flight from their homes in an effort to get away from the fast-moving flames.

A total of 1,139 firefighters are battling the fire and three suffered smoke inhalation. They are working through hot, dry conditions amid steep terrain.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.
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