One of California’s largest wildfires this year ripped through more than 21 square miles on Sunday, forcing thousands to evacuate from remote mountain communities as the blaze near Yosemite National Park burned out of control amid hot temperatures and low humidity.
The Oak Fire broke out Friday in Mariposa County near the small town of Midpines. Meanwhile, firefighters advanced against the Washburn fire 12 miles east near Yosemite, which threatened the park’s largest and most iconic sequoia grove.
The Washburn Fire was 87% contained after two weeks of firefighting, but the Oak Fire was 0% contained as of Sunday evening. According to Call Fire.
The 2,000 firefighters battling the blaze are expected to face harsh conditions including low humidity, high temperatures and steep terrain, Cal Fire said. 17 helicopters, 225 fire engines, 58 dozers and 23 water tenders were dispatched to fight the Oak fire.
“It’s warm out there again today,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Natasha Fouts said Sunday. “The fuel moisture content is too low.”
Light winds blew the volcanoes in front of tree branches “because it’s so dry, it’s easy to establish spot fires, and that’s what fuels the growth,” Fouts said.
As of Sunday afternoon, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial structures and damaged five, according to Cal Fire. Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 3,100 homes and businesses in the area had lost power and had no indication when it would be restored.
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California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Mariposa County because of the fire, and more than 6,000 people in the remote Sierra Nevada foothills were evacuated. Adrian Freeman with the U.S. Forest Service said a few residents defied the orders and stayed behind.
“We urge people to evacuate when told,” Freeman said. “This fire is moving very fast.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Cal Fire said.
California has experienced increasingly large and deadly wildfires in recent years as climate change has warmed and dried out the western United States over the past three decades. Scientists have warned that wildfires will become more unpredictable, more frequent and more destructive.
Contributed by: Associated Press
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