A wildfire is spreading uncontrolled in Yosemite National Park in Northern California, prompting authorities on Monday night to close a nearby highway and evacuate 13,000 people from the popular tourist area. The fire is the second wildfire around the park in recent weeks and the latest of many such blazes in drought-stricken California, where the parched terrain is fueling a higher number and intensity of wildfires in the state this summer.
The Junction Fire started Monday near the park’s southern gateway and had burned 1,200 acres, damaged or destroyed eight buildings, and threatened 500 more structures by late in the day, authorities said, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. More than 600 firefighters from nearby fire departments were battling the blaze into the night.
Gusting winds drove the flames, which rapidly devoured dry brush, jumped over roads and sparked smaller spot fires. State officials said late Monday that Gov. Jerry Brown had been granted federal emergency funding to help combat the fire, the Chronicle noted. Brown previously declared a state of emergency earlier this month after dozens of wildfires burned through thousands of acres, damaged critical infrastructure and destroyed homes.
Light winds and slightly cooler temperatures expected later this week are likely to aid firefighters in quelling the Junction Fire, the Weather Channel reported.
Yosemite saw charring late last month after the El Portal fire burned more than 3,000 acres. Elsewhere on Monday night, a separate wildfire had surged to thousands of acres, resulting in evacuation orders for several neighborhoods near the Bakersfield area.
Nearly 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought” levels, while all of the state is in “severe drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Officials say the record drought is contributing to the spread of wildfires across the state this year. Worldwide, wildfires will likely become more frequent and intense in the future as climate change exacerbates drought conditions around the world, scientists say.