A fast-moving wildfire near Yosemite National Park has raged on the scale of one of California’s largest wildfires this year, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of people 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, and by Sunday morning had grown to 14,281 acres without containment, according to the Department of Health. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. erupted like firefighters that burned to the edge of a grove of giant sequoia in the southern part of Yosemite Park.
Evacuation orders went into effect Saturday for more than 6,000 people living over several miles in a sparsely populated rural area, said Daniel Patterson, a spokesperson for the Sierra National Forest.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Mariposa County on Saturday due to the effects of the oak fire.
Patterson said more than 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with helicopters, other aircraft and bulldozers, in the face of harsh conditions that included hot weather, low humidity and dry vegetation due to the worst drought in decades.
“Explosive fire behavior is challenging for firefighters,” Cal Fire said in a statement Saturday, describing Oak Fire’s activity as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and mass arson.”
As of Saturday morning, Cal Fire said the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial buildings, damaged five others and threatened 2,000 other buildings. The fire closed several roads, including the closure of Interstate 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road – closing one of the main roads to Yosemite.
California has increasingly experiencedIn recent years, as climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists said the weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires will become more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.
“The fires are moving fast. This fire was throwing embers in front of itself for up to two miles yesterday,” Patterson said. “These are exceptional fire conditions.” The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 2,600 homes and businesses in the area had been out of 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 facility said.
An elderly man without shoes trying to escape a fire on Friday crashed his car into a ditch in a closed area and was helped by firefighters. He was safely removed from the area and did not appear to suffer any injuries. Many other residents stayed indoors on Friday night as a fire raged nearby.
Meanwhile, firefighters have made significant progress battling wildfires that started in Yosemite National Park and burned in the Sierra National Forest.
The Washburn Fire was 79% contained on Friday after burning about 7.5 square miles of forest. It was one of the largest fires of the year in California, along with the Lost Lake fire in Riverside County that was completely contained in June over an area of 9 square miles.
The fire broke out on July 7 and forced the closing of the south entrance to Yosemite and the evacuation of the Wauna community as it burned on the edge of Mariposa Grove, home to hundreds of giant sequoia trees, the largest trees in the world by volume.
According to the park’s website, Wauna Road is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Saturday.
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