A rapidly growing wildfire in California near Yosemite National Park has more than tripled in size since Friday night, threatening thousands of structures and bringing evacuation notices for 3,800 residents, the authorities said.
The blaze, called the Oak fire, began at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon in Midpines in rural Mariposa County, roughly 70 miles north of Fresno and about 10 miles from Yosemite near the Sierra Nevada foothills. The fire covered a little more than 4,000 acres on Friday night. But it grew to 15,603 acres by Sunday night and was completely uncontained, according to a report from CalFire, the state’s fire agency, making it the largest wildfire in the state this season.
Ten structures have been destroyed, and another five have been damaged, officials reported. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the county on Saturday.
The fire’s “explosive nature” has posed a challenge to the hundreds of firefighters who were deployed, CalFire said. Natasha Fouts, a spokeswoman for CalFire, said on Saturday that this was also the fastest growing fire of the season so far, surpassing the speed of the Washburn fire that continued to burn in Yosemite National Park.
On social media, residents shared images of an ominous plume of smoke that quickly overtook an orange and red sky after the fire began.
Evacuation orders were issued for an area stretching several miles away from the fire, and officials closed multiple roads. It was not known if any residents had suffered injuries. An American Red Cross station was opened at the Mariposa Elementary School. In addition to the structures that were destroyed, five others were damaged.
Fire officials did not expect to contain the fire until later this week, Ms. Fouts said.
While wildfires occur throughout the West every year, the link between climate change and bigger fires is inextricable. Wildfires are increasing in size and intensity in the Western United States, and wildfire seasons are growing longer. Recent research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with global warming are major reasons for the increase in bigger and stronger fires.
Experts have said that this might be one of the most brutal fire years in the state, since California is in the midst of a severe drought and the summer has been extremely hot. Those conditions made the last two fire seasons particularly destructive, together killing 36 people and destroying more than 14,700 buildings in the state.
The cause of the Oak fire is still under investigation, but a report issued Friday night said that vegetation in the area was “very receptive to new spot fires due to the hot, dry weather and drought,” and that heavy fuels, strong winds and low humidity were also influencing fire behavior. The entire county of Mariposa is enduring a drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, a government agency, and this is the driest year on record for the county.