Hell on Earth: ‘Explosive’ Wildfire Ravages Area Near Yosemite
Thousands of Californians were ordered to leave their homes Saturday as a wildfire near Yosemite National Park spread quickly, burning homes and businesses to the ground, and threatening 2,000 more as firefighters struggled to get it under control. Photos of the Oak Fire in rural Mariposa County captured apocalyptic scenes: walls of orange flame, the charred skeleton of buildings, cars all but reduced to ash. Officials told the Associated Press that the fire had grown to 10.2 square miles as of Saturday morning. Pacific Gas & Electric said that over 2,600 homes were without power.
The largest fire in California this year has forced thousands of people to evacuate as it wrecks homes and rips through the western US state’s dry terrain.
The McKinney fire was completely uncontained as it burned in Klamath National Forest in Northern California, the state’s department of forestry and fire protection said on Sunday, consuming more than 21,000 hectares (51,000 acres) near the city of Yreka.
Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, which has already battled several blazes this summer, declared a state of emergency on Saturday, saying the fire had “destroyed homes” and “threatened critical infrastructure” after breaking out on Friday.
This ‘Extreme’ Wildfire Is Now California’s Biggest of the Year
The first signs of progress in battling the Oak fire raging just outside California’s Yosemite Park came Monday, with the state’s main firefighting agency reporting the flames are now 10 percent contained. But that hasn’t eased the worries of those in Mariposa County, where the fire has already ravaged 17,000 acres of land. Emmanuel Chavez, a spokesman for Cal Fire, told The Daily Beast the fire’s behavior is still “erratic,” with his colleagues struggling to evacuate thousands of people as the flames exploded to become the state’s largest fire of the year in less than three days. Chavez said the homes of more than 3,000 people are in immediate danger.
The fire was “intensified and spread by dry fuels, extreme drought conditions, high temperatures, winds and lightning storms”, Newsom added in a statement.
More than 2,000 residents were under evacuation orders and some 200 under evacuation warnings, mostly in Siskiyou County, according to the California Office of Emergency Services.
“Surrounding areas should be ready to leave if needed. Please don’t hesitate to evacuate,” the Siskiyou County sheriff tweeted.
Highway 96 and McKinney Creed Road, southwest of the Klamath River, were closed to the public, authorities said.
Yreka resident Larry Castle told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that he and his wife had packed up a few possessions and their three dogs to leave the area for the night.
California’s Oak Fire: What, where and why?
Key questions answered about the blaze that is raging in US’s central California.Here is what to know about it:
“You look back at the Paradise fire and the Santa Rosa fire and you realise this stuff is very, very serious,” he said. © Provided by Al Jazeera The remains of an animal are seen as the McKinney fire burns near Yreka [Fred Greaves/Reuters]
Nearly 650 people were working to douse the blaze as of Sunday, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group said.
Firefighting forces were sent from nearby Oregon to help containment efforts, the Oregon State Fire Marshal said, as the Klamath National Forest also deals with the Kelsey Creek Fire.
Fire authorities in California said the cause of the blaze was still “under investigation”.
The US Forest Service (USFS) said “a heavy smoke inversion” had helped limit the growth of the fire on Sunday, but also meant that firefighters’ aircraft were also “mostly grounded”.
Fire crews were working above Fort Jones and west of Yreka “to cut off the fire’s progress”, the USFS said.
The record-breaking blaze was sparked just days after the year’s previous largest fire raged in central California.
The Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park broke out in mid-July and spread rapidly, destroying 41 buildings and forcing thousands to evacuate.
California, which is facing a punishing drought, still has months of fire season ahead of it.
In recent years, California and other parts of the western US have been ravaged by huge and fast-moving wildfires, driven by a warming climate.
Other parts of the world have also faced intense wildfires this year.
On Sunday, both Portugal and France were battling major forest fires, as temperatures rose sharply in Europe over the weekend.
Wildfire in Washington burns several homes, small town evacuated .
A fast-moving fire burned six homes and eight structures before authorities ordered the town evacuated.In Washington, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook early on Thursday afternoon that residents of Lind needed to flee due to the encroaching flames.