Thousands of Californians were ordered to leave their homes Saturday as a wildfire near Yosemite National Park spread quickly, burning homes and businesses to the ground, and threatening 2,000 more as firefighters struggled to get it under control.
Photos of the Oak Fire in rural Mariposa County captured apocalyptic scenes: walls of orange flame, the charred skeleton of buildings, cars all but reduced to ash.
Officials told the Associated Press that the fire had grown to 10.2 square miles as of Saturday morning. Pacific Gas & Electric said that over 2,600 homes were without power.
The fire, which broke out Friday afternoon, has ruined 10 residential and commercial structures, and damaged five others. Nearby residents can stay up to date on the evacuation area with local officials’ constantly updating interactive map.
“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” Cal Fire said in a statement Saturday, describing the fire as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching.”
Helicopters, bulldozers, and more than 400 firefighters are attempting to rein in the spread, Sierra National Forest spokesperson Daniel Patterson told the Associated Press. Highway 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road are currently shut down among other road closures.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation as officials tried to stop it from ravaging other neighborhoods. But the stage was set by a hot climate, low humidity, and bone dry vegetation caused by extensive drought furthered by climate change, Patterson said. California wildfires have continued to increase in intensity and size in recent years.
“The fire is moving quickly. This fire was throwing embers out in front of itself for up to 2 miles yesterday,” Patterson said. “These are exceptional fire conditions.”