Thousands evacuated as California’s Oak Fire grows quickly

July 24 – Fueled by intense heat and tinder-dry forests and underbrush, a wildfire just west of Yosemite National Park flared overnight, quickly turning into one of the largest fires of the year and forcing thousands of residents to be evacuated from their homes, fire officers said.

Authorities said the Oak Fire, which is zero percent contained, threatened to destroy about 2,000 homes on Saturday and vacated some 3,000 people. By early Sunday, media reports said h had told 6,000 people to leave.

The cause of the fire, which started on Friday and has burned around 14,281 acres, is under investigation by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

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“Today the weather is predicted to remain hot with minimum humidity between 5 and 10%, which will hamper firefighting efforts,” a blaze report posted early Sunday said. “High tree mortality and dense fuels are throughout the fire area.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Mariposa County because of the Oak Fire. The declaration allows the state to access federal money and resources to battle the flames.

Yosemite, about an hour’s drive from Mariposa County, is home to some of the world’s largest and oldest sequoia trees. The redwoods were threatened by another blaze earlier this month, but firefighters managed to save them.

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Separately, in Idaho, two firefighters died after their helicopter crashed on Saturday while battling a blaze called the Moose Fire, in a rural area near the Montana border, according to the Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office.

Last year marked the worst wildfire season in California in terms of total acreage, with more than 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) and over 10,000 homes and other structures destroyed. At least 33 lives were lost, and over 10 million acres went up in flames across several Western states. read more.

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