On Sunday, firefighters used air tankers, bulldozers, and hand teams to battle a fast-moving wildfire just west of Yosemite National Park that erupted into one of the year’s largest fires, forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

The Oak Fire, which began on Friday and was fueled by severe heat and tinder-dry woodlands and underbrush, had gotten within half a mile (0.8 km) of the town of Mariposa Pines but was still more than 10 miles (16 km) from Yosemite, famous for its gigantic, old sequoia trees.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fire had scorched 15,603 acres (6,314 hectares) by Sunday evening, more than half the size of Paris, and was zero percent contained (Cal Fire).

Ten structures were demolished, with another five being damaged.

Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese informed a packed auditorium in the county seat of Mariposa that about 3,800 residents had been ordered to evacuate.

Cal Fire authorities stated that they had large firefighting teams on the site early on, but the fire grew unusually and outpaced their best efforts.

According to Justin Macomb, a Cal Fire operations section commander, the fire was heading east up into the sierra, toward the town of Mariposa Pines and Yosemite.

“We were immediately outflanked by the flames. We couldn’t even assault it with the resources we had “Macomb stated. “In my career, I haven’t seen fire behavior like that.”

The cause of the fire was still being investigated.

Yosemite National Park, about an hour’s drive from Mariposa County, is home to some of the world’s largest and oldest sequoia trees. Another blaze endangered the trees earlier this month, but firefighters were able to save them.

Drought and rising temperatures have made California more vulnerable to wildfires than ever before, with the two most disastrous years on record occurring in 2020 and 2021, when more than 6.8 million acres (2.75 million hectares) burnt, an area larger than Rwanda.

Source: Reuters

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