Emergency declared as wildfire rages near Yosemite National Park in California

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Emergency declared as wildfire rages near Yosemite National Park in California
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A state of emergency has been declared as firefighters tackled a 6,000-acre brush fire near Yosemite National Park in California.

The Oak Fire is the largest to hit the state in 2022 and officials say it could take a week to contain the blaze.

More than 6,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and power has been shut off in at least 2,000 homes and businesses.

The fire started on Friday afternoon southwest of the park near the town of Midpines in Mariposa County. It had grown to nearly 19 square miles (48 square kilometers) by Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Evacuation orders were put in effect Saturday for over 6,000 people living across a several-mile span in the sparsely populated, rural area, said Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Saturday due to the effects of the Oak Fire.

More than 400 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with helicopters, other aircraft and bulldozers, facing tough conditions that included hot weather, low humidity and bone-dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades, Patterson said.

“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” Cal Fire said in a statement Saturday that described the Oak Fire’s activity as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching.”

By Saturday morning, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial structures, damaged five others and was threatening 2,000 more structures, Cal Fire said.

The blaze prompted numerous road closures, including a shutdown of Highway 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road — blocking one of the main routes into Yosemite.

Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 2,600 homes and businesses in the area had lost power as of Friday afternoon and there was no indication when it would be restored. “PG&E is unable to access the affected equipment,” the utility firm said.

A shoeless older man attempting to flee the blaze on Friday crashed his sedan into a ditch in a closed area and was helped by firefighters.

He was safely driven from the area and did not appear to suffer any injuries. Several other residents stayed in their homes Friday night as the fire burned nearby.

Meanwhile, firefighters have made significant progress against a wildfire that began in Yosemite National Park and burned into the Sierra National Forest.

The Washburn Fire was 79 per cent contained on Friday after burning about 7.5 square miles of forest. It was one of the largest fires of the year in California, along with the Lost Lake Fire in Riverside County that was fully contained in June at 9 square miles.

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