Wildfire explodes beyond 14,000 acres near Yosemite National Park

Matt Garr/via REUTERS
An aerial view from an aircraft of the Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park, taken from above Yosemite Valley, California, U.S., July 22, 2022.

Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate because of a wildfire burning thousands of acres near Yosemite National Park and challenging firefighters.

The Oak Fire began Friday afternoon and on Sunday afternoon had burned more than 14,200 acres outside Yosemite, according to Cal Fire.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Saturday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also providing resources to suppress the fire, Newsom said.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Natasha Fouts said about 6,000 people had been evacuated from the area as of Saturday morning. She revised that number in an interview with The Washington Post on Sunday, saying that about 3,000 people were under evacuation orders and that nearly 2,000 were being warned that they may need to leave soon.

The wildfire had destroyed 10 structures and damaged five as of Sunday, according to the department’s website. None of the Oak Fire had been contained Sunday.

“This fire in particular has just had a really dangerous rate of spread,” Fouts said.

She said Sunday that crews were anticipating rough firefighting weather.

“We’re anticipating increase in fire activity this afternoon, which is what we’ve been seeing as the temperature rises and the winds pick up,” Fouts said.

Justin Macomb, a Cal Fire operations section chief, said in an operational update Sunday morning that firefighters are trying to contain the blaze’s spread in residential areas.

It’s peak fire season in California, where climate change has heightened the intensity and frequency of wildfires.

Mariposa County has seen several large wildfires in recent years, including the 2013 Rim Fire, which is among California’s 20 largest wildfires.

This month, a wildfire in Yosemite threatened hundreds of giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, the park’s largest grove. On Friday, firefighters assumed command of the Washburn Fire, which began July 7, according to the incident management team.

This weekend was a hot one for much of the United States, another sign that climate change is altering the summer months by inducing intense heat waves.

On Sunday, climate change activist and former vice president Al Gore said that “things are going to get a lot worse” if people do not adjust their habits and stop the planet’s warming trend.

“We have the ability to stop temperature from going up‚” he told ABC News’s Jon Karl on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“If we got to true net-zero [emissions], the temperatures on Earth would stop going up with a lag time of as little as three to five years, almost as if we’ve flipped a switch. . . . We have the solutions available,” Gore said.