Thousands ordered to escape from a California wildfire near Yosemite

Wawona, CA (AP) — A fast-moving wildfire near Yosemite National Park exploded on Saturday, making it one of the largest wildfires in California, with thousands of evacuation orders and more than 2,000 homes. And the power supply to the company was cut off. ..

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire (Cal Fire), Oak Fire began Friday afternoon southwest of a park near the town of Midpines in Mariposa County and grew to nearly 15 square miles (38 square kilometers) by Saturday. .. It erupted as firefighters advanced against the early flames that burned to the edge of a giant sequoia grove at the southernmost tip of Yosemite Park.

Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for Sierra National Forest, said evacuation orders came into effect on Saturday for more than 6,000 people living in less populated rural areas over miles.

According to Patterson, more than 400 firefighters, along with helicopters, other aircraft and bulldozers, face the harsh conditions of heat, low humidity and dry vegetation caused by the worst droughts of decades. , Was fighting the flames.

“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” CalFire said in a statement on Saturday, describing OakFire’s activities as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torches.”

By Saturday morning, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial buildings, damaged 5 other buildings, and threatened an additional 2,000, CalFire said. The flames caused many road closures, including the closure of Highway 140 between Kirstens Road and All Red Road — blocking one of the major routes to Yosemite.

California has experienced ever-increasing and deadly wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the west much warmer and drier in the last three decades. Scientists say the weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires will become more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.

“The fire is moving rapidly. It threw embers in front of itself for up to two miles yesterday,” Patterson said. “These are exceptional fire conditions.” The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Pacific Gas and Electric said on its website that more than 2,600 homes and businesses in the area were out of power as of Friday afternoon, with no indication of when they would be restored. “PG & E cannot access the affected device,” said the utility.

An elderly man without shoes trying to escape the flames on Friday crashed his sedan into a ditch in a closed area and was helped by a firefighter. He was safely expelled from the area and did not appear to be injured. Some other residents stayed at their homes on Friday night as the fire burned nearby.

Meanwhile, firefighters have made great strides against wildfires burning in the Sierra National Forest, starting in Yosemite National Park.

The Washburn fire was 79% contained on Friday after burning about 7.5 square miles (19.4 square kilometers) of forest. This was one of California’s largest fires of the year, alongside the Lost Lake fire in Riverside County, which was completely contained at 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) in June.

The fire broke out on July 7, closing the southern entrance to Yosemite and evacuating the burning Wawona community on the edge of Mariposa Grove, home to hundreds of giant sequoias, the world’s largest tree.

According to the park’s website, Wawona Road will resume on Saturday.


Gecker contributed from San Francisco.