“Moving incredibly fast” is what one state fire official described as a wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park in California, leaving authorities with little time to issue evacuation warnings.
Fire behaviour on the Oak Fire is “unprecedented,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jon Heggie said. The blaze has already grown to more than 16,700 acres and has damaged at least seven structures. “It’s going incredibly fast, and we only have a limited amount of time to get people out.”
According to a news release from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Saturday, the fire, which started Friday in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has caused at least 3,000 residents to flee their homes.
More than 2,500 firefighters are battling the blaze, which, according to a Cal Fire update released on Monday, has been contained to 10 per cent of its original size. More than a dozen aircraft, 281 fire engines, and 46 water tenders are among the tools at their disposal, according to the agency.
Authorities, according to Heggie, are doing their best to coordinate with law enforcement and alert citizens when they must leave the area.
As a result, “many are going to have to leave with just the shirts on their backs,” he warned. Of course, the most important thing is their safety and well-being.”
On Monday, Cal Fire said that the blaze “remained active in certain places” through Sunday night because of “dry dead and downed fuels.”
To put it another way, it reduced the number of houses that were destroyed from 10 to seven and the number of houses that were damaged from five to nil.
Jane and Wes Smith, whose son Nick Smith told his parents were left with “only the clothing on their back and the shoes on their feet,” were among those who had their homes destroyed.
As he put it, “it’s pretty sad to watch the house that I grew up in and was raised in left. “It packs a punch.”
When Smith’s father, a Mariposa County Sheriff’s officer, was working on the fire, his mother only had time to load their horses before fleeing, he claimed. Since their loss, the couple has been staying with friends and family.
Writing, and raising money for his parents’ rehabilitation, Smith set up a GoFundMe page “For the past 37 years, I’ve collected a treasure trove of memories, family heirlooms, and other sentimental items. Even though these are merely things, it is terrible to have everything taken from you in an instant.”
Fire’s Severity is the ‘Direct Result’ of Climate change, Official Says
Mariposa County has been declared a state of emergency by Gov. Newsom, who cited the thousands of displaced citizens as well as the destruction of their houses and crucial infrastructure.
Mariposa Elementary School has become an evacuation centre and a small animal sanctuary. According to the sheriff’s office, the county fairgrounds and the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds are being used as a sanctuary for large animals.
The Forest Service stated Sunday that some areas of the Sierra National Forest, which borders and partially overlaps with Mariposa County, had been closed to the public because of the fire.
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According to the agency’s website, “The Fire’s activity consists of flanking, backing, and crawling through National Forest Systems territory, roadways, and recreational areas.” Firefighting resources will be able to focus on battling the blaze without the intervention of the public, as a result of this closure.
This fire is the largest of the several burning in California that has been fueled by prolonged drought conditions, leaving behind brittle vegetation and underbrush that are easily ignited.
Because of the fire, neighbouring states are experiencing unusually hot and dry weather, as well. High temperatures may be affected or dropped if smoke from the Oak Fire reaches Portland, Oregon, according to the National Weather Service in a tweet.
Also, Heggie remarked that the fire’s behaviour was “indicative” of what has been observed in wildfires across the state and the American West in recent years: Human-induced climate change and extended drought have led it to “burn with just such a pace and intensity.”
This is a direct impact of climate change, and I can tell you that,” he said. “Having a 10-year drought in California doesn’t mean things will stay the same. Climate change and a 10-year drought have finally caught up with us.”
Wildfires are growing increasingly common and severe as a result of climate change. According to a UN Environment Programme research released earlier this year, blazes are burning longer and hotter in places where they’ve traditionally occurred, as well as erupting in unexpected places.
At the Oak Fire near Midpines, northeast of Mariposa, California, on Saturday, a firefighter cooled down a blazing tree.
It’s the ‘dead fuel’ caused by climate change and drought that’s causing these mega flames,'” Heggie explained.
Fires “had never grown in this rate or this extent,” he claimed, in the past.
Observing the change, he said, “it’s become the norm now.”
Experts claim that California’s prolonged wildfire seasons, which are now occurring throughout the year, are directly linked to climate change.
There is a heightened risk of wildfires in Southern California this year due to a hotter, drier summer and the fact that firefighting crews are short on personnel.