More mandatory evacuation orders issued in Tulare County as Windy Fire grows

The wildfire has scorched more than 49,000 acres and is only 6% contained.
TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above is from a previous broadcast and will be updated.

Several Giant Sequoia groves have been impacted and the Tule River Reservation remains under threat as the Windy fire has now burned 56,802 acres as of Friday afternoon and is just five percent contained.

Firefighters were unable to take Action News crews anywhere near the flames because they said the fire behavior had been erratic and they didn't want to risk our safety.

The southern side of the wildfire is causing the most concern, leading officials to order new evacuations Friday.

"The fire has been pushing firebrands and embers and spotting out at least a mile, if not further, out than the main front of the fire itself," said Windy Fire Information Officer Nathan Judy.

Smokey skies have limited the air attack, something firefighters could have used to slow the fire in areas with steep terrain.

"The fire has been burning on reservation land, forest service land and has now moved into certain areas of state responsibility lands," said Judy.

The fire has impacted several giant sequoia groves. Specialists are now evaluating the trees to determine the extent of the damage.

Two commercial buildings have been destroyed and more than 1,700 homes remain threatened.

Also under threat is the Tule River Reservation, including land where they have basket-making materials and hunting and gathering took place for generations.

"We have a lot of sacred sites that are trying to be protected as well as our watershed," said William Garfield, the chairman of the Tule River Tribe.

He said the smoky skies are tough on tribal elders.

Outdoor workers were sent home early Friday, in hopes that the air quality will improve by Monday.

"Smoke is really thick there for the residents."

Friday, Garfield was in Sacramento speaking with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a state senator, asking for more fire resources to protect the reservation.

"We're just trying to get everything in order to make sure that our community is protected," said Garfield. "Best case scenario for us would be to get more resources on the tribal side to protect sacred sites I was talking about."

An evacuation center has been set up at Porterville College. On Friday, The Red Cross said they had 16 evacuees staying there.

Tulare County Animal Services is helping to evacuate or house animals for evacuees. Anyone needing shelter for their pet can fill out an application on their website.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.