Summer Fire at Yosemite Grows, Forcing 13,000 to Evacuate

Skift Take

When it comes to fires at prominent national parks, this summer has been easier than many others. But it is still taking a toll.

— Jason Clampet

A 1,200-acre wildfire burning near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park spread Tuesday, threatening 500 homes near a small town on the park’s outskirts, authorities said.

The Junction Fire started just before 2 p.m. Monday about a mile from Highway 41 near the Highway 49 junction. It spread uncontrolled, prompting authorities to ask 13,000 people in and around the town of Oakhurst to evacuate as fire consumed eight structures and threatened several hotels, restaurants and other businesses, according to the Madera County sheriff’s office.

Authorities closed Highway 41 in both directions in Oakhurst, about 50 miles north of Fresno. The road is the main route into Yosemite for visitors traveling from the south.

More than 600 firefighters were battling the wildfire. Two firefighters suffered undisclosed injuries, said Chris Christopherson, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The blaze raced through dry brush, jumping roads and sparking spot fires as it moved toward the Bass Lake resort area, Christopherson said.

Small fires burned the office of a propane company in Oakhurst, but firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to nearby propane tanks.

Firefighters were taking advantage of lower morning temperatures, higher humidity and reduced winds Tuesday to cut containment lines.

Two evacuation shelters were set up by the Red Cross. One, at the Coarsegold Community Center about 7 miles south of Oakhurst, was nearly full Monday night. Another shelter at the Yosemite Lakes Community Church a few miles farther south had 150 beds available.

The state Office of Emergency Services said federal emergency funding had been allocated to help fight the fire.

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