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article imageMassive wildfire near Yosemite forces thousands from homes

By Karen Graham     Jul 19, 2017 in Environment
Mariposa - A massive wildfire in California's Central Valley has forced the evacuation of 4,000 people since the fire began on Sunday, prompting Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for Mariposa County Tuesday night.
The massive blaze, outside of Yosemite National Park has already destroyed eight structures and threatens about 1,500 homes in the town of Mariposa, according to the Associated Press.
Called the Detwiler Fire, the blaze has burned 39 square miles (101 square kilometers), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). As of Wednesday, the fire is only 5.0 percent contained and continues its relentless trek, southwest of Yosemite, burning power lines and encroaching on “culturally and historically sensitive areas.”
The fire is near McClure Reservoir, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Modesto, burning close to Highway 49, an historic route that winds its way up through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is dotted with communities and historic landmarks associated with the California Gold Rush of 1849.
The communities of Hunters Valley, Bear Valley, Catheys Valley, Mormon Bar, the town of Mariposa, Mount Bullion, Yaqui Gulch/Aqua Fria areas and Hornitos are still under threat as the fire continues to exhibit “extreme and aggressive” behavior.
Joey Street, 49, a tree trimmer who’s lived in Mariposa for about 25 years, was one of the first people to be evacuated from the town. As he waited to be moved by bus to an evacuation center in Oakhurst, he said, “(Firefighters) don’t have control of it now, so they’d better be safe than sorry,” adding that conditions had deteriorated between Monday and Tuesday.
“Yesterday it didn’t look too bad, today you can’t even see Mt. Bullion right now, which tells me it’s getting closer,” Street said. “More ash falling from the sky tells me it’s getting closer.”
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Eric Rucker on Twitter
Snow and rain have helped to make this a dangerous fire season
After five or more years of drought that left California's forests a tinderbox for fires, you would think that with all the heavy rains and snowpack that ended the drought, the danger of forest fires would be drastically reduced.
But like in British Columbia, Canada, California is in the same boat, so to speak, owing to the lush undergrowth that has sprung up with all the rainfall. Bushes, grass, and shrubs grew in abundance and then came the high temperatures and high humidity. Add to that the winds and you have the perfect recipe for fires.
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Eric Rucker on Twitter
“We have this abundant grass crop now, and we have not had this type of fuel in many years,” said Amy Head, spokeswoman for CalFire. “It is dry everywhere, it is thick, it is abundant and there is a lot of it.”
And while wildfires in the summer aren't anything new, Robyn Heffernan, a National Weather Service fire weather science meteorologist in Boise, Idaho points out that what is new is the numbers and intensity of the fires today, a direct consequence of climate change.
“They are much longer-burning, much hotter and much faster-spreading,” she said. “There are parts of California that don’t go out of fire season.”
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