Oak Fire Near Yosemite National Park Explodes in Size, Forces Thousands of Evacuations

by Amy Myers

As of Friday, the Oak Fire that erupted near Yosemite National Park has reached 9,500 acres in size with no containment. Because of this, local officials have had to execute thousands of evacuations in nearby communities to ensure the safety of the residents while firefighters race to control the flames.

The Oak Fire began the afternoon of July 22 on Carstens Road near Highway 140 in the town of Midpines. According to an update from Mariposa County, crews quickly arrived at the scene, but because of dry conditions and high winds, the flames quickly escalated.

“Fire activity is extreme,” Cal Fire said in a situation report on Saturday. “Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters.”

With containment still at zero percent, the county had no other choice than to issue evacuation orders to thousands of people and shut off power to more than 2,000 homes and businesses. Over 6,000 people across a several-mile radius in a rural region of the county received notices, according to Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

The Oak Fire is a completely separate entity from the Washburn Fire that began in the southernmost region of Yosemite National Park and continued towards the edge of the park’s famed sequoia forest in Mariposa Grove. Thanks to previously prescribed burns and diligent work from responders, though, no harm has come to the ancient trees.

Currently, officials are still investigating the cause of the Oak Fire which is “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching.”

Oak Fire Near Yosemite National Park Destroys 10 Buildings and Shuts Down Major Highway

Already, the Oak Fire has destroyed 10 residential and commercial buildings and has damaged five more. Over 400 firefighters, along with helicopters, other aircraft and bulldozers have responded to the blaze and are hoping to keep the fire from affecting the thousands of other structures in its path.

In the meantime, though, the state has also closed down Highway 140 between Carstens Road and Allred Road which is a main roadway for the western portion of Yosemite National Park.

“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.”

Unfortunately, there will be more heat waves, high winds and dry conditions to come. As a result, we may see more wildfires in the future. Per Daily Mail, scientists have stated that these blazes will be “more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.”

However, there is good news. Since the start of the Washburn Fire, responders have made significant progress. As of Friday, roughly two weeks before the blaze began, the fire has reached 79 percent containment after burning about 7.5 square miles of forest.