Dramatic dashcam footage has emerged showing Californian rescuers driving through a forest fire to help save 82 children and adults trapped at a summer camp.

The youngsters were stranded at Circle V Ranch Camp near Santa Barbara as the Whittier fire ravaged the region last Saturday (8 July).

The video, which resembles scenes from an apocalypse, shows Santa Barbara County Sheriff officers surrounded by flames as they drive through thick smoke in a race to reach the campers.

Trees, bushes and even debris on the dust road can be seen ablaze as they make their way towards the camp.

At one point the officers have to stop their vehicle as the wind blows enormous flames across the road, blocking their path.

"Within seconds, the entire shrubbery and trees were engulfed in flames and the roadway was covered," Sgt. Neil Gowing later told reporters.

The wildfire was first reported last Saturday at about 1.40pm and is believed to have started near the entrance to Camp Whittier and the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, police said.

The fire burned towards the Circle V Ranch Camp, where 124 people including 88 children were in attendance.

Some 30 campers and 12 staff members were able to evacuate in vehicles, but 82 people were left trapped when a wall of flames, falling trees, rocks and debris blocked the dirt road.

Search and rescue teams tried to navigate through the smoke and flames to reach the camp but were blocked.

One officer did manage to reach the camp, however – US Forest Service Patrolman Dave Dahlberg.

"I was able to make access into the camp through all the smoke and flames and all the debris on the road. It was tough at some points," Dahlberg told KSBY news.

He met campers as they sheltered inside the dining hall area and waited for a bulldozer to help protect the area from encroaching flames, which came within 600 feet (180m) of the camp. Overhead, helicopters and airtankers made drops where the flames were seen moving dangerously close to the buildings.

After a route was cleared, other rescue vehicles arrived to evacuate the campers.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said on Saturday the cause of the fire is still under investigation. The blaze has so far affected just over 13,000 acres, burning down eight houses and 12 outbuildings.

The Outdoor School at Rancho Alegre was one of the structures engulfed in the blaze, killing animals in the nature reserve and destroying the camp, a statement from the school said.

Circle V Ranch said critical infrastructure was destroyed during the fire and they would be closed for the remainder of the 2017 summer season.