On Saturday, thousands of people were ordered to flee their homes and businesses near a fast-moving wildfire near Yosemite National Park.
The bushfire that started Friday afternoon has now exploded to cover more than 26 square kilometers (10 square miles) according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Evacuation orders are now in place for more than 6,000 people living in a sparsely populated rural area.
“Explosive fire behavior is a challenge for firefighters,” the department said, describing the blaze as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group fires.”
The fire had destroyed 10 residential and commercial structures by Saturday morning and threatened 2,000 more.
This has resulted in numerous road closures including Highway 140 which is one of the main routes into Yosemite.
More than 400 firefighters are battling the blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills, armed with water-dropping helicopters and other firefighting aircraft, as well as bulldozers.
The blaze was fueled by hot weather, low humidity and extremely dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades, although its initial cause is unknown.
Daniel Patterson, spokesman for the Sierra National Forest, said climate change has made the region much hotter and drier over the past 30 years, leading California to experience more and more wildfires. more important and deadly.
Last year, almost August 43,000 Californians were under evacuation orders as a dozen large wildfires raged across the state.
“The fire is moving fast. This fire was throwing embers ahead of it up to two miles yesterday. These are exceptional fire conditions,” Mr Patterson warned.
Residents have shared photos on social media of a massive pyrocumulus cloud expanding through the atmosphere.
Andy Bollenbacher, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service, said the cloud tops stretched up to 30,000 feet into the sky Friday night.
The risk is that, in extreme conditions, wildfires can begin to create their own weather system when the smoke forms a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, similar to normal cumulonimbus clouds or storm clouds that produce hail, thunder and thunder. lightning.
Under current conditions, such weather — and the accompanying lightning strikes and stronger winds — could spark even more fires in a chain reaction of destruction.
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