On Monday, firefighters began to contain California’s biggest wildfire this year, stopping its eastward spread into adjacent Yosemite National Park as thousands of residents remained evacuated.

The Oak Fire grew quickly after it started on Friday, overwhelming the first firefighting effort, as abnormally hot and dry conditions fanned its galloping speed through dry timber and underbrush.

However, helicopters dumped 300,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of water on the fire on Monday, according to a Monday night report from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

Cal Fire said that the fire had grown to 17,241 acres (6,977 hectares) by Monday night, a 3 percent increase from Monday morning, and was now more than half the size of San Francisco.

It was now 16 percent contained, up from 10% on Monday morning, and 3,700 people had been evacuated.

The findings contradicted remarks made by many Cal Fire personnel on Sunday, who stated the fire first acted differently than any other they had seen and resisted their best attempts to control it, with burning embers spawning minor flames up to two miles in advance of the main blaze.

Because there were no other big fires in the area, Cal Fire was able to focus 2,500 firefighters on the blaze, and the lack of wind allowed for the constant use of planes to drop water and fire retardant, according to authorities.

“It was a perfect storm of a good kind,” Hector Vasquez, a Cal Fire spokesman, said at the command center in Mariposa, California, approximately 150 miles inland from San Francisco.

The fire’s northward trajectory was carrying it into the Sierra National Forest but no longer in the direction of Yosemite, which was about 10 miles away. A grove of Yosemite’s massive, old sequoia trees was threatened by another wildfire a few weeks ago.

Temperatures in the region reached 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius), as the few prospects of thunderstorms receded. The National Weather Service predicts 100-degree temperatures for the rest of the week.

More than two decades of drought and increasing temperatures have made California more prone 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 burnt, an area larger than Rwanda.

Source: Reuters

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