Oak fire near Yosemite grows to 17,000 acres, destroys 10 structures

Crews fighting the massive, still-growing Oak fire near Yosemite National Park reported some positive progress for the first time Monday morning, containing 10% of the almost 17,000-acre blaze.

The inferno in the Sierra Nevada foothills, which has forced thousands to flee their homes and destroyed at least 10 structures, grew by 1,000 acres since late Sunday, Cal Fire officials reported. The fire had no containment Sunday.

“We have more resources assigned to the fire — that certainly helped,” Jonathan Pierce, public information officer with Cal Fire’s Incident Management Team 5, said Monday morning. “The crews have been doing a lot of hard work.”

Almost 2,600 firefighters are working the wildfire, Pierce said, with crews prioritizing protection of nearby communities in central Mariposa County, southwest of Yosemite. More than 3,200 structures remain threatened by the flames.

The Oak fire started Friday near Midpines and quickly became California’s largest blaze of the season thus far. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County.

Officials have not determined what caused the fire.

Pierce said humidity levels remained low overnight Sunday, which didn’t help firefighting, and he did not expect any major shifts in weather. Hot temperatures, low humidity and drought-parched vegetation have fueled the fire.

“There are parts of the fire where behavior is dying down, but there are parts of the fire that are still active, more extreme,” Pierce said. He said long-range spotting — firebrands or embers blown outside the main fire perimeter that can spark fires — continue to be a concern.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter for those displaced by the Oak fire at Mariposa Elementary School, where evacuees can also bring small animals. People can take large animals to the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, according to Cal Fire.

The Washburn fire, which ignited earlier this month not far from the Oak fire but inside of Yosemite National Park, is about 80% contained. It had threatened the park’s largest grove of ancient sequoias, but officials say the trees are expected to survive.

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