Wildfire Near Yosemite Forces Thousands To Flee

Wildfire Near Yosemite Forces Thousands To Flee

CA Governor Declares Emergency As Wildfire Near Yosemite Forces Thousands To Flee

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Saturday, as a fast-moving brush fire near Yosemite National Park has become the state’s largest this year, forcing thousands of residents to flee.

A home burns as the Oak fire rips through the area near Mariposa on Saturday. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The fire, which started Friday near Midpines, has spread to at least 14,281 acres, destroyed 10 structures, and is 0% contained as of this writing. An estimated 2,000 more structures are at risk, according to CalFire.

Over 6,000 people living across a several-mile span in the sparsely populated rural area were ordered to evacuate, while more than 400 firefighters battle the blaze, using helicopters, other aircraft and bulldozers. They face hot weather, low humidity, and dry vegetation as the worst drought in decades hits the state.

“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” CalFire said in a Saturday statement, describing the Oak Fire’s activity as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching.”

“The fire is moving quickly. This fire was throwing embers out in front of itself for up to 2 miles yesterday,” said Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest. “These are exceptional fire conditions.”

As the LA Times notes, the fire “marked an ominous start to the state’s peak wildfire season, with more dangerous blazes expected due to a combination of drought, climate change and overgrown vegetation that has increased the likelihood of fires igniting quickly and spreading rapidly.”

It came as much of the globe was in the grip of extreme heat, with record-breaking temperatures fueling fires across Europe and prompting alerts in large swaths of the United States and China.

“The troops out on the ground have got a really tough situation right now to deal with,” said Kim Zagaris, former state fire and rescue chief for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services who now works as advisor for the Western Fire Chiefs Assn.

“Mother Nature throws a lot at us,” she added. “Aviation resources and the wildland community are stretched even thinner in today’s day and age — and not just us, but all across the world.”

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