What You Need To Know About The Oak Fire
The Oak Fire in Mariposa County, near Yosemite National Park, has quickly become California’s largest wildfire this year at more than 17,241 acres. The fire has destroyed homes, forced thousands to evacuate, and closed roads in the area. Fire officials said the fire is displaying “unprecedented” behavior, with the blaze’s “extremely fast” growth limiting the time authorities have to warn residents to evacuate. CalFire Chief Jon Heggie noted the fire “is a direct result” of climate change, with a combination of rising temperatures, megadroughts, and an abundance of dry vegetation leaving forests vulnerable to fire. California is projected to have an above-normal wildfire season this year.
- The Oak Fire has burned 17,241 acres in Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park. The blaze is California’s largest wildfire this year and is only 16% contained as of Monday evening.
- The fire started on Friday near the town of Midpines and exploded in size over the weekend due to gusty winds, drought conditions, and temperatures that reached 100 degrees. Officials have not determined the cause of the fire.
- The area has seen nearly two weeks of triple digit temperatures and low humidity, and vegetation is at almost record levels of dryness. Officials reported last month that vegetation was already as dry early in the summer as it would typically be in October.
- The fire is burning through an area of Mariposa County that hasn’t seen wildfires since 1924.
- The Oak Fire is the third blaze to burn near Yosemite in recent weeks, and is far larger than the Washburn Fire, which threatened ancient giant sequoias.
- The fire has destroyed at least 55 structures, forced several thousand residents to flee, and caused numerous road closures, including the closure of a stretch of State Route 140, one of the main routes into Yosemite National Park.
- Parts of the Sierra National Forest, which partially overlaps with Mariposa County, were closed to the public due to the fire on Sunday.
- The Oak Fire is threatening multiple mountain communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills west of Yosemite National Park, including Lushmeadows, Midpines, Jerseydale, and Bootjack, from which about 6,062 people had been evacuated as of Saturday afternoon.
- As of Sunday, about 3,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders and nearly 2,000 more were warned they may need to leave soon.
- As of Monday, Pacific Gas & Electric reported about 2,676 homes and businesses in Mariposa County have lost power due to the blaze.
- On Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County, allowing the deployment of additional emergency personnel. More than 2,500 firefighters were battling the blaze as of Monday.
- Smoke from the Oak Fire traveled as far as the Bay Area on Monday, with an air quality advisory for the area extended through Wednesday. On Sunday, smoke had already drifted nearly 200 miles north to South Lake Tahoe, where air quality was considered “hazardous to unhealthy.”
- Currently, 100% Mariposa County is affected by drought, and 2022 is the driest year to date for the county.
- As well as the Oak Fire, 4 additional large wildfires are burning in California.