Satellite images show a plume of smoke rising from a wildfire near California’s Yosemite National Park that forced evacuations as it grew during a weekend of sweltering temperatures.
The Oak Fire grew to more than 14,000 acres early Sunday. About 2,000 firefighters are attacking flames with aircraft and bulldozers in rugged terrain. Containment was at 0 percent Sunday morning.
NASA satellite images show a large cloud of smoke over the park about 280 miles north of Los Angeles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Crews on the ground protected homes as air tankers dropped retardant on 50-foot flames racing along ridgetops east of the tiny community of Jerseydale. Light winds blew embers ahead into tree branches. Dry brush is allowing spot fires to develop rapidly.
The fire started Friday southwest of the park near the town of Midpines in Mariposa County. Officials described “explosive fire behavior” on Saturday as flames made runs through bone-dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades.
“It’s hot out there again today,” Cal Fire spokesperson Natasha Fouts said Sunday. “And the fuel moisture levels are critically low.”
The cause was under investigation.
Evacuations were in place for over 6,000 people living across a several-mile span of the sparsely populated area in the Sierra Nevada foothills, though a handful of residents defied the orders and stayed behind, said Adrienne Freeman with the U.S. Forest Service.
“We urge people to evacuate when told,” she said. “This fire is moving very fast.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Mariposa County due to the fire’s effects.
Flames destroyed at least 10 residential and commercial structures and damaged five others, Cal Fire said. Assessment teams were moving through mountain towns to check for additional damage, Fouts said.
Numerous roads were closed, including a stretch of State Route 140 that’s 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.
Red icons on the map above represent fires, including the nearby Washburn Fire that threatened giant sequoias in the southern part of Yosemite National Park.
That fire was nearly 80% contained after burning for two weeks and moving into the the Sierra National Forest.