A rapidly expanding wildfire near Yosemite National Park, California’s largest of the season, at 17,000 acres, prompted thousands of evacuations Monday and sent smoke to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.
The Oak Fire, which erupted Friday, was 10% contained Monday as firefighters traversed steep terrain in sweltering temperatures and low humidity.
Ten structures were destroyed, seven were damaged and more than 3,200 were threatened as firefighters worked to prevent the blaze from encroaching on the national park.
Mariposa resident Rodney McGuire lost everything as his home and his classic car collection were reduced to rubble, soot and ash Sunday. Nothing remained of his mountain property aside from a sign reading “McGuire’s Home.”
“I still haven’t absorbed this,” he said through tears.
McGuire said that messages have poured in from concerned loved ones but that he has struggled to “get the strength to even read them.”
“I just don’t know,” he said.
A lost cat was found on McGuire’s property Monday, its face and parts of its body badly singed. It was rescued by NBC News crews and taken to a local veterinarian.
Firefighters were able to slow the fire overnight Sunday by creating lines along its perimeter to protect neighboring communities like Midpines in rural Mariposa County, where the wildfire started.
It made a “substantial run” Sunday toward the mountain community of Mariposa Pines, but firefighters were able to stop its advance.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Justin Macomb, an operations section chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.
“Firefighters are engaged 24 hours a day. They are giving it their best effort,” he said at a briefing Monday morning. “I’m more optimistic today about what’s going to happen than I have been in previous days.”
Yosemite National Forest, about 30 miles east of the Oak Fire’s core, dodged a bullet this summer when the Washburn Fire threatened its famous giant sequoia trees, which were spared destruction. The 4,866-acre Washburn Fire was 87% contained Monday.
An air quality advisory was scheduled to remain in effect for the Bay Area through Wednesday. Officials were also keeping an eye on a 5-acre wildfire in Sonoma County.
The utility company Pacific Gas & Electric said on its website that more than 2,600 homes and businesses in the area of the Oak Fire were without power Monday, with no estimate of when it would be restored.