A ferocious wildfire in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada raged uncontained on Sunday (July 24) forcing thousands of residents from their homes in the gateway to Yosemite National Park, according to The Guardian.
The Oak fire started on Friday near the town of Midpines, Calif., and exploded in size over the weekend.
Burning through dense and dry vegetation on the region’s steep and rugged hillsides, the blaze was fanned by gusty winds and temperatures that hovered around 100F (38C). The extreme nature of the fire meant it turned tall trees into match-sticks and sent billowing black smoke curling over the quaint historic downtown of Mariposa.
It remained at 0% containment Sunday night, despite a heavily resourced firefighting effort. Since Friday, it had consumed more than 15,000 acres. More than 3,000 people were under evacuation orders.
More than 2,000 first responders from state and federal agencies were battling the blaze, attacking it both from the ground and the air. At least 10 homes and other structures had been destroyed, with thousands remaining at risk in its path.
“The growth of this fire is pretty amazing given the fact of how quickly we had resources here,” said Chief Mike van Loben Sels, of the Madera Merced Mariposa unit of California’s Fire and Forestry Protection (Cal Fire). He noted that embers and spot fires were igniting more than a mile ahead of the blaze. “We really threw everything at this thing from the beginning,” he said.
The fire is one of dozens burning across the American west as the region braces for peak fire-risk months that still lie ahead. More than 5.5 million acres have already burned in the U.S. this year, roughly 70% more than the 10-year average.