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California wildfire forces thousands to evacuate

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California, July 24: Thousands of evacuation orders were issued in the US state of California on Saturday as a fast-moving brush fire near Yosemite National Park began to grow rapidly.

Evacuation orders were issued for over 6,000 people, Sierra National Forest spokesman Daniel Patterson said. More than 400 firefighters along with helicopters and bulldozers were working to put out the blaze, he said.

California wildfire forces thousands to evacuate

What do we know about the fire?

The Oak Fire started Friday afternoon southwest of the park. By Saturday, it had grown to 10.2 square miles (26.5 square kilometers), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

"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."

By Saturday morning, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial structures and damaged 5 others, according to Cal Fire. It was threatening 2,000 more structures and had prompted numerous road closures.

"Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters," Cal Fire said in a statement. It went on to describe the Oak Fire as "extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching."

As of midday Saturday, the fire was zero percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

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Worst drought in decades

The blaze was raging in a sparsely-populated, mostly rural area of the Sierra Nevada foothills, Patterson said.

According to him, hot weather, low humidity and bone dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades was fueling the blaze.

California has experienced increasingly larger wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the western part of the United States much warmer and drier.

Firefighters made significant progress against a separate wildfire on Friday, which was 79% contained after having burnt about 7.5 square miles (19.4 square kilometers) of forest. The fire broke out on July 7.

sdi/sri (AP, AFP)

Source: DW

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