Yosemite’s wildfire tripled in size after authorities airlifted hikers out of harm’s way Sunday night. Several water-dropping helicopters and airplanes are assisting hundreds of firefighters with the blaze, which grew to nearly 2,600 acres Monday morning.
The Meadow fire is burning near Half Dome peak and Merced Lake, according to park ranger Scott Gediman. The Los Angeles Times reports that there was no estimate of how contained the fire was. It is believed to have been started by a lightning strike last month.
The fire smouldered for 49 days at just under 20 acres. Initially, park officials decided to let it burn to restore Yosemite National Park’s natural fire patterns. Given its high elevation and slow pace, they didn’t anticipate any threat to public safety.
However, winds pushed the flames into dry brush Sunday, causing it to explode in size and cut off dozens of mountain climbers and hikers from park exits.
About 40 hikers on Half Dome were evacuated and others were airlifted out of the park Sunday. Tim Ludington, a park spokesman, stated, “The fire was getting very close to the trail to Half Dome and we didn’t want to take the chance on people having to hike through the fire to get back.”
ABC News notes that the Yosemite fire forced the closure of trails near Half Dome peak, as well as a nearby camp site.
Ludington blamed “really aggressive winds” for the fire’s massive spread. He noted that the fire didn’t threaten any park roads or infrastructure. Still, he explained, “We’re shooting for full suppression.”
Along with Half Dome, trails to the Little Yosemite Valley, Merced Lake, the Sunrise High Sierra Camps, Clouds Rest, and Echo Valley were all closed.
The Meadow fire isn’t the only blaze threatening areas of Yosemite and causing evacuations. The Bridge fire, located east of the park in Mariposa County, still burns at 300 acres and is about 70 percent contained.
At least 700 homes remained threatened by the Bridge fire, though officials lifted evacuation orders for homeowners. In Siskyou County, the Happy Camp complex fire grew to 99,200 acres in size. The wildfire, currently the largest in rain-parched California, was 30 percent contained Monday morning.
Wildfire season has hit hard for California and Washington, where a massive 300,000 acre fire burned through hundreds of homes and threatened hundreds more last month. The Carlton Complex fire is now 100 percent contained, but will likely continue burning until winter snow snuffs it out.
There was no word on when the Yosemite fire could be contained.
[Image: Fire Tracker]