Fire Near US’ Yosemite Park Threatens 2,000 Homes

Fire Near US’ Yosemite Park Threatens 2,000 Homes

29 July 2008

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USA — About 2,000 homes were at risk from an erratic and fast-moving wildfire near Yosemite National Park that was raging across 18,000 acres (6,475 hectares) and had not yet been contained, a fire official said on Sunday.

The blaze, which began Friday afternoon, has already charred eight homes, said Daniel Berlant, information officer at the California Department for Forestry and Fire Prevention. Seven outbuildings, including barns and sheds, were also destroyed, but there have been no reported injuries, he said.

“The fire’s going in all directions,” he said. “There are reports of flame lengths over 100 feet (30 meters).”

Between 170 and 200 homes in Midpines, a town neighboring the 1,200-square-mile (310,800 hectares) park in central California, were under mandatory evacuation orders, Berlant said.

Other residents who live in the communities of Coulterville, Greeley Hill and Mariposa that are west of Yosemite in Mariposa County, have been warned they may have to leave their homes if the fire approaches, he said. That would bring total homes at risk to around 2,000.

Berlant described these areas, which are about 10 miles from the park, as rural and sparsely populated.

The fire is not affecting the park itself, but power supply to Yosemite Valley, an area that includes popular sightseeing spots like El Capitan, has been cut off, said Julie Chavez, a Yosemite media relations officer.

“We’re running on generators,” she said, adding that all four entrances to the park and major roads remain open. But “air quality and visibility have been impeded,” Chavez said.

Berlant said the fire was heading south, toward the town of Mariposa, and east, toward Yosemite.

He said the fire was caused by a spark from a person shooting at targets, Berlant said.

The fire was fueled by dry timber that has not burned for 100 years, he said. “There’s a lot of fuel for the fire burn.”

There are about 2,000 firefighters currently battling the blaze, along with 200 fire engines, 12 air tankers and 12 helicopters, Berlant said.

A big challenge to controlling the fire is steep, rugged terrain that makes access difficult, Berlant said.

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