Wildfire near Yosemite declared state of emergency with blaze 10% contained

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A wildfire which erupted near Yosemite National Park has been declared a state of emergency after growing into one of California’s biggest blazes of the year.

More than 6,000 people have been evacuated and the power was cut to 2,000 homes in remote Sierra Nevada foothills communities, according to the US Forest Service. A handful of residents defied orders to leave and stayed behind, the agency reported.

The Oak Fire has grown to 16,791 acres and is 10 per cent contained after igniting on Friday afternoon, near the small town of Midpines, Mariposa County. Seven homes or commerical structures have been destroyed.

More than 2,500 fire fighters, 281 fire engines and 17 helicopters have been deployed to battle the blaze. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Saturday.

The state agency Cal Fire reported on Sunday night that the Oak Fire was nearing the community of Mariposa Pines, to the southwest of Yosemite, but that crews had been able to hold it back.

Fire activity had eased and firefighters were making headway, an incident report also stated.

It is unclear how the fire started but the blaze is being exacerbated by bone-dry conditions and hot, dry weather in the region. California and other western states are in the grips of a two-decade “megadrought” linked to the climate crisis.

The entire state of California is in severe and extreme drought conditions with some areas facing exceptional risk.

A separate blaze, the Washburn Fire, has been burning in the Mariposa Grove area of Yosemite National Park, for the past two weeks.

As of Sunday, it had burned through 4,866 acres and was 87 per cent contained after it earlier forced the closure of Yosemite’s south entrance and threatened hundreds of giant sequoias.

The National Park Service reported that the community of Wawona, Wawona Campground, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias remain closed, although Highway 41 into the park has reopened.

A deep low-pressure system over central Canada is allowing high pressure to rebuild over the US West this week, the National Interagency Fire Center reported. Temperatures will be above normal in the western Great Basin, inland valleys of California, most of Washington, Oregon and across the southern Great Plains, where low relative humidity and breezy conditions will persist.

Some 93 large fires and complexes are currently burning in the US, destroying more than 3 million acres across 15 states. This year so far, more than 38,000 wildfires have burned 5.5m acres, the most land burned-to-date in the past 10 years.

This article has been updated

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