A major fire west of Yosemite National Park has nearly tripled in size since Tuesday, forcing thousands of evacuations in what’s shaping up to be an overwhelming fire season for California.
The Detwiler Fire in California’s Mariposa County has swelled to more than 70,000 acres, nearly triple the size of the 25,000 acres it covered early Tuesday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire, also known as Cal Fire, said Thursday morning. The blaze has been growing at an impressive speed, fire personnel said Wednesday, when the fire’s size had reached more than 45,000 acres, nearly twice the acreage as the previous morning.
The blaze, which ignited on Sunday, has forced around 5,000 people to evacuate their homes. It has destroyed 45 structures and required the deployment of more than 3,000 fire personnel. It remains only 10 percent contained.
“The fire area is seeing poor humidity recoveries at night allowing the fire to remain very active throughout this time,” Cal Fire said in an update Thursday. “The fire is burning in drought stricken chaparral and in an area of severe tree mortality.”
Record winter rains followed by record summer heat have contributed excess dry brush and fuel for fires, experts say. Such wildfire-friendly patterns are expected to continued as climate change exacerbates extreme weather conditions.
It could be weeks before firefighters extinguish the Detwiler blaze.
“We’re not expecting an end until about Aug. 5,” Cal Fire Captain Koby Johns told the local ABC News affiliate on Wednesday.
“Those are just projections, but it tells a little bit of a story, and that story is, this fire is outpacing us at this point,” Johns continued, pointing to wind and hot, dry weather encouraging the blaze.
“It’s unprecedented for these parts as far as how fast this is going,” he said.
Satellite images from the National Weather Service showed massive smoke clouds from the fire blowing across state lines into Nevada.
It’s one of more than a dozen major wildfires that have scorched California in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, local and federal firefighters were battling 17 large ones in the state, Cal Fire public information officer Scott McLean said.
Between the start of the year and July 9, wildfires under Cal Fire’s jurisdiction have burned more than twice as many acres as they did in that same time period last year. Similarly, more than 4.4 million acres have burned nationally since the start of the year, compared to 2.7 million during that span of 2016.
The blazes in California and other western states have shone a harsh light on President Donald Trump’s policies, including his reneging on international climate agreements and his plan to cut the already lean U.S. Forest Service budget, which goes toward fighting fires alongside Cal Fire and other state jurisdictions.
This story has been updated with the latest information on the size and scope of the Detwiler Fire.