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.
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.
— Justin Sullivan (@sullyfoto) July 23, 2022
Good morning. The fire is now at 14,281 acres with 0% containment still. Increasingly likely a monsoonal moisture plume will intrude through the Sierras next week, which could effect fire behavior, along with the threat of dry lightning. #OakFire #MariposaCounty #Midpines #FireWX pic.twitter.com/vktxfvwUVQ
— Michael Steinberg (@MichaelWX18) July 24, 2022
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.
🔴CALIFORNIA :#VIDEO STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED AS THE LARGEST ACTIVE WILDFIRE “OAK FIRE” RAPIDLY SPREADS NEAR YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK!
— loveworld (@LoveWorld_Peopl) July 24, 2022
— Olen Hogenson KMPH (@olenhogenson) July 23, 2022
“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.
— Erin Heft KCRA (@ErinHeftKCRA) July 23, 2022
“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.”
This is the #oakfire. Burning in my community of Midpines. It’s heartbreaking. Just ran 4 miles down with a full pack from Mono Pass and trying to get home as fast as I can. So far we are not in the evacuation zone but this is our community and it’s devastating. pic.twitter.com/hLBDxGdMGE
— Beth Pratt (@bethpratt) July 23, 2022
Tunnel View at 11:30am on 07/23/22. Smoke is beginning to fill the valley. Ash also began falling a few minutes ago. If you are going to be/are at the park keep an eye on air quality. #OakFire #Yosemite pic.twitter.com/vjTOmDLZnW
— Josh Miller (@jmiller_hiker) July 23, 2022