A Massive Wildfire Near Yosemite National Park Prompts the Evacuation of Thousands of People!
A brush fire that started quickly near Yosemite National Park has grown into one of California’s biggest wildfires of the year, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes and cutting power to more than 2,000 homes and businesses.
The Oak Fire started Friday afternoon southwest of the park near the town of Midpines in Mariposa County. By Sunday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, the fire had spread to 14,281 acres and could not be stopped. It started as firefighters were making progress against an earlier fire that had burned to the edge of a grove of giant sequoia trees in the southernmost part of Yosemite Park.
A spokesman for the Sierra National Forest, Daniel Patterson, said that orders to evacuate were given Saturday to more than 6,000 people living in a rural area that is only a few miles long.
On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that Mariposa County was in a state of emergency because of the Oak Fire.
More than 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with helicopters, other aircraft, and bulldozers, facing tough conditions that included hot weather, low humidity, and bone-dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades, Patterson said.
“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” Cal Fire said in a statement Saturday that described the Oak Fire’s activity as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires, and group torching.”
By Saturday morning, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial structures, damaged five others, and was threatening 2,000 more structures, Cal Fire said. The blaze prompted numerous road closures, including a shutdown of Highway 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road — blocking one of the main routes into Yosemite.
Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years, which has led to bigger and more deadly wildfires in California. Scientists have said that the weather will continue to get worse and that wildfires will become more common, dangerous, and hard to predict.
“The fire is moving quickly. This fire was throwing embers out in front of itself for up to 2 miles yesterday,” Patterson said. “These are exceptional fire conditions.” The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 2,600 homes and businesses in the area had lost power as of Friday afternoon and there was no indication when it would be restored. “PG&E is unable to access the affected equipment,” the utility said.
On Friday, an older man who didn’t have any shoes and was trying to get away from a fire crashed his car into a ditch in a closed area. Firefighters were there to help him. He has driven away safely, and it didn’t look like he was hurt in any way. Several other people stayed in their homes Friday night, even though there was a fire close by.
Meanwhile, firefighters have made a lot of progress against a wildfire that started in Yosemite National Park and spread to the Sierra National Forest.
Friday, 79 percent of the Washburn Fire had been put out. It had burned about 7.5 square miles of forest. It was one of the biggest fires in California that year, along with the 9-square-mile Lost Lake Fire in Riverside County that was put out in June.
The fire started on July 7 and forced the closure of the southern entrance to Yosemite and the evacuation of the town of Wawona because it was near Mariposa Grove, which is home to hundreds of giant sequoias, the world’s largest trees by volume.
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