MIDPINES, Calif. — A destructive wildfire near Yosemite National Park burned out of control Sunday and has grown into one of California’s biggest blazes of the year, forcing thousands of residents to flee remote mountain communities.
The Oak Fire was fought by some 2,000 firefighters, as well as aircraft and bulldozers. They were faced with steep terrain and extreme temperatures.
“Today the weather is expected to remain hot with minimum humidity between 5 and 10%, which will hamper firefighting efforts,” said a Sunday morning incident report.
On Friday, the blaze broke out southwest of Midpines, Mariposa County. Officials described “explosive fire behavior” on Saturday as flames made runs through bone-dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades.
Cal Fire stated that the fire had burned more than 22 miles (56 km) of forestland and there was no control. Investigations were ongoing into the cause.
More than 6,000 individuals lived within a short distance of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Mariposa County due to the fire’s effects.
Cal Fire stated that 10 structures were destroyed by flames, five of them commercial buildings. Numerous roads were closed, including State Route 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road — one of the main routes into Yosemite.
California’s wildfires have become more severe and deadly in recent years, as a result of climate change. The West has been much warmer and dryer over the last 30 years. Scientists predict that wildfires will become more severe and more unpredictable as weather patterns change.
Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 3,100 homes and businesses in the area had lost power as of Sunday and there was no indication when it would be restored. “PG&E is unable to access the affected equipment,” the utility said as flames roared Friday.
As firefighters worked to put out a previous blaze called the Washburn Fire that had burned up the northernmost Yosemite National Park, the Oak Fire was started. Nearly 80% of the 7.5-square mile (19 km) fire had been contained by firefighters after it burned for two weeks before moving into the Sierra National Forest.
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