California Oak Fire: Fast-growing blaze engulfs homes near Yosemite National Park as it burns over 15,000 acres



CNN

As thousands of residents were forced to flee a burgeoning wildfire outside California’s Yosemite National Park over the weekend, some were told their homes had completely crumbled to ash and in debris.

The Oak Fire has exploded in size to more than 16,700 acres since it began Friday in the Sierra Nevada foothills, destroying at least 10 structures and damaging five others, state fire officials said. . More than 3,200 structures are at risk from the blaze, which was 10% contained Monday morning, although authorities said it was progressing. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Jane and Wes Smith lost their 37-year-old home when fires ripped through Mariposa County over the weekend, their son Nick Smith said, telling CNN his parents were left with “just the clothes on their backs. and the shoes on the feet”.

“It’s quite sad to see the house I grew up in and grew up in,” he said. “It hits hard.”

His mother only had time to load their horses before escaping the area, Smith said, while his father was busy working on the fire as a Mariposa County sheriff’s deputy. Now the couple stay with friends and family as they recover from the loss.

Smith started a GoFundMe to support her parents’ recovery, writing on the page, “37 years of memories, generations of family treasures and countless other sentimental things. Although it is materials, it is devastating to literally lose everything in the blink of an eye without notice.

Smith’s family is among more than 3,000 people forced to evacuate their homes due to the Oak Fire, according to a statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Saturday. An evacuation center was established at Mariposa Elementary School, along with a small animal shelter. The county fairgrounds and Coursegold Rodeo Grounds serve as shelters for large animals, according to the sheriff’s office.

The blaze also forced the closure of portions of Highway 140 and several adjacent roads, according to Cal Fire.

Newsom declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Saturday, citing the thousands of displaced residents, destroyed homes and threatened critical infrastructure.

“Fire activity has not been as extreme as it has been on previous days. Firefighters made good progress today,” Cal Fire wrote in a Sunday evening update, noting that firefighters were making good progress today. firefighters were able to contain the fire and protect the community of Mariposa Pines.

In total, more than 2,500 people are fighting the flames. Crews use more than a dozen helicopters, 281 fire engines and 46 water tankers, which are used to transport large amounts of water, according to Cal Fire.

The Oak Fire burns through the trees Sunday near Jerseydale, California.

Parts of the Sierra National Forest, which partially borders and overlaps Mariposa County, are closed to the public due to the fire, the forest service said Sunday.

“Fire behavior consists of flanking, retreating and creeping through lands, roads and recreation areas in National Forest Systems,” the agency said on its website. “This closure will support public safety by keeping members of the public out of hazardous burning areas and allow firefighting resources to fight the blaze without public interference.”

The Oak Fire is the largest of California’s active blazes, which were fueled by prolonged drought conditions across much of the state, leaving behind brittle vegetation and rapidly burning undergrowth.

Conditions are further exacerbated by human-caused climate change: As a result, wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe. According to a report released earlier this year by the United Nations Environment Programme, fires are burning longer and hotter in places where they have always occurred, and also igniting in unexpected places.

Cal Fire acknowledges that the state’s longer wildfire seasons, which experts say are beginning to stretch throughout the year, are a direct result of climate change.

Southern California firefighters have braced for a tough summer this year, anticipating a hotter, drier summer and the increased frequency of wildfires, even as fire crews experience worker shortages.

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