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Growing Oak Fire torches over 14,000 acres near Yosemite; emergency declared



Newsom declares emergency as Oak Fire continues explosive growth


WAWONA — A fast-moving brush fire near Yosemite National Park continued to grow Sunday, becoming one of California’s largest wildfires of the year, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of residents and shutting off power to more than 2,000 homes and businesses.

The Oak Fire started Friday afternoon southwest of the park near the town of Midpines in Mariposa County and by Sunday morning had grown to 14,281 acres, according to Cal Fire. It erupted as firefighters made progress against an earlier blaze that burned to the edge of a grove of giant sequoias in the southernmost part of Yosemite park.

Oak Fire burning in Mariposa County
Oak Fire burning in Mariposa County.


AP Photo

The fire remained active overnight in part due to poor humidity recovery as it moved toward the communities of Jerseydale, Darrah, and Bootjack, Cal Fire officials said Sunday morning. On Sunday, the weather is forecast to remain hot with minimum humidity between five and ten percent, hampering firefighting efforts. Cal Fire damage inspection teams are beginning their assessment of the areas affected by the fire. Cal Fire posted its update on the Oak Fire incident page.   

Some 2,000 firefighters were battling the fire, along with aircraft and bulldozers, facing tough conditions that included steep terrain and spiking temperatures, fire officials said.  

Evacuation orders were put in effect Saturday for over 6,000 people living across a several-mile span in the sparsely populated, rural area, said Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

Weather projections forecast smoke from the Oak Fire moving westward over Yosemite National Park Sunday afternoon with downslope winds pushing heavy smoke into the Sierra Nevada foothills Sunday evening.

The Bay Area office of the National Weather Service on Sunday said smoke from the Oak Fire was expected to arrive over parts of the Bay Area beginning Monday morning. Currently, smoke is likely to remain aloft rather than near the surface, so it should not affect air quality. However, some residents will see hazy and slightly red or orange-tinted skies due to this smoke by the morning.


Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Saturday due to the effects of the Oak Fire.

More than 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with helicopters, other aircraft and bulldozers, facing tough conditions that included hot weather, low humidity and bone-dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades, Patterson said.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Alameda County Strike Team headed out Saturday to assist Cal Fire crews, according to the Oakland and Fremont fire departments, which are part of the team.

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


Oak Fire rages near Yosemite National Park by
Associated Press on

By Saturday morning, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial structures, damaged five others and was threatening 2,000 more structures, Cal Fire said. The blaze prompted numerous road closures, including a shutdown of Highway 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road — blocking one of the main routes into Yosemite.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.

“The fire is moving quickly. This fire was throwing embers out in front of itself for up to 2 miles yesterday,” Patterson said. “These are exceptional fire conditions.” The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 2,600 homes and businesses in the area had lost power as of Friday afternoon and there was no indication when it would be restored. “PG&E is unable to access the affected equipment,” the utility said.

A shoeless older man attempting to flee the blaze on Friday crashed his sedan into a ditch in a closed area and was helped by firefighters. He was safely driven from the area and did not appear to suffer any injuries. Several other residents stayed in their homes Friday night as the fire burned nearby.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Saturday that the state has secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ensure the availability of resources to suppress the Oak Fire. The funding will enable local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for a 75 percent reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs, Newsom’s office said.

Local area residents can get additional information on the Oak Fire by calling (844) 668-3473. A map of the areas under evacuation orders is available online. A full list of evacuated areas and road closures has been posted on the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.


Source: CBS

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