California: Thousands Evacuated After Mariposa Wildfire Doubles In Size To 45,000 Acres

Thousands of residents of Mariposa County in Central California have been asked to evacuate their homes after a wildfire that started this Sunday east of Lake McClure expanded and doubled in size. The wildfire, currently referred to as the “Detwiler fire,” initially covered an area of over 25,000 acres, the Los Angeles Times reports. By Wednesday, the wildfire had doubled in size to cover more than 45,724 acres, officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection confirmed.

Officials say the wildfire grew dramatically in size overnight and now threatens to destroy power lines that supply electricity to Yosemite National Park. According to current estimates, the wildfire has forced more than 4,000 people out of their homes and has destroyed eight structures. In fact, as of this writing, more than 1,500 individual structures face the risk of total destruction if the fire is not contained.

According to Jordan Motta, a fire captain and Cal Fire spokesperson, the dramatic increase in the size of the wildfire could be attributed to the tall, overgrown grass that sprouted across the foothills of the Sierra Nevada following the winter rains. The large quantity of shrub provided ample fuel for the fire to expand at an unforeseen pace.

The news of this dramatic increase in the size of the Mariposa Wildfire comes just one day after Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the region. Following the declaration, additional firefighting equipment and fire crews were sent to Mariposa County to help contain the fire. As of this writing, only 7 percent of the fire is contained, this in spite of more than 2,200 firefighters and volunteers fighting the blaze.

Mariposa Wildfire
Merced and Mariposa County Sheriff's Office members at the Detwiler fire in Mariposa County, Caliornia [Image by Merced County Sheriff's Office/ AP Images]

Among the worst affected by the wildfire are residents from the town of Mariposa, located east of Merced. According to the latest reports, the fire was just three-quarters of a mile from Mariposa. All roads in the surrounding regions have been closed. Other communities that have been affected by the Mariposa Wildfire include Hunters Valley, Bear Valley, Catheys Valley, Mormon Bar, Mount Bullion, the Yaqui Gulch/Agua Fria areas, and Hornitos, Cal Fire said.

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The wildfire had already caused a major power disruption at Yosemite National Park on Tuesday, and if it continues to grow at its current pace, it will almost certainly cause additional problems. Authorities, however, rule out a complete blackout at Yosemite because the primary power for the park comes from another transmission line that is not in the path of the fire.

[Featured Image by Noah Berger/AP Images]