While firefighters were making headway against a previous fire that had burnt to the border of a grove of gigantic sequoia trees, a rapidly spreading wildfire in Yosemite National Park swelled in size on Saturday and forced evacuations.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, the Oak Fire, which started Friday afternoon southwest of the park at Midpines in Mariposa County, had grown to 10.2 square miles (26.5 square kilometers) by Saturday morning.
Over 6,000 residents in the remote, sparsely populated area were given the go-ahead to evacuate on Saturday.
In a statement released early on Saturday, Cal Fire stated that the fire activity was “severe with frequent runs, spot flames, and group torching.” “Explosive fire behavior is taxing firefighters,” the statement said.
According to Cal Fire, the fire was threatening 2,000 additional properties as of Saturday morning, had burned 10 residential and business buildings, damaged five more, and was still burning.
One of the primary entrances to Yosemite National Park was blocked by the Highway 140 closure between Carstens Road and Allred Road, which Caltrans ordered in response to the quickly spreading fire.
According to Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest, the fire was being fed by hot weather and parched vegetation brought on by the worst drought in decades.
“The fire is spreading rapidly. Yesterday, this fire was spewing embers up to two kilometers in ahead of itself “explained Patterson. “These fire conditions are unusual.”
Firefighters assisted an elderly guy who had lost his shoes and was trying to escape by crashing his car into a ditch in a restricted area. He was taken away in safety and didn’t seem to sustain any wounds. As the fire raged close on Friday night, a number of other locals remained inside their houses.
More than 2,600 local homes and businesses had lost power by Friday afternoon, according to Pacific Gas & Electric, and there was no word on when it would be restored.
The business stated, “PG&E is unable to access the impacted equipment.”
No information on what started the fire is currently available.
Firefighters said on Friday that they had managed to put out 79 percent of the Washburn Fire, the original wildfire.
The town of Wowona had to be evacuated due to the fire, which was in the lower Mariposa Grove region close to the Washburn path and threatened hundreds of gigantic sequoias, the biggest trees in the world by volume.
On Saturday, Wawona Road is slated to reopen, according to the park’s website.
The U.S. Forest Service, meanwhile, declared Friday that it is taking emergency measures to safeguard huge sequoias by accelerating initiatives to shield the trees from the growing threat of wildfires.
Members of Congress from both parties, including Kevin McCarthy, the head of the House Republican caucus, introduced the Save Our Sequoias (SOS) Act.
According to the SOS act, firemen must be present while blazing smaller trees and plants on purpose while it’s moist outside.
The organization stated, “Today’s move by the Forest Service is a significant step forward for Giant Sequoias, but without addressing other obstacles to safeguarding these groves, this situation will only worsen.” It’s time to formalize this activity by passing the SOS Act and creating a real, all-encompassing solution to fireproof every grove in California in order to rescue our sequoias.
The typical permission procedure needed to clear dense vegetation and remove smaller trees in national forests might be sped up by years with this emergency measure. The underbrush is so thick that flames may spread quickly.
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore issued a statement warning that “wildfires might destroy countless more famous gigantic sequoias” if immediate action is not taken. Unburned giant sequoia groves will be safeguarded from the hazards of high-severity wildfires thanks to this urgent intervention to decrease fuels before a wildfire begins.