Fire Destroys 12 Homes Near Yosemite National Park

By: Tracie Cone AP
By: Tracie Cone AP

MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) - Little relief from hot weather is expected this week as crews fight to contain a wildfire near an entrance to Yosemite National Park that has destroyed 12 homes and forced the evacuation of nearly 200 others.

The blaze had charred more than 26,000 acres - over 40 square miles - since Friday as wooded slopes ignited. Besides the homes destroyed, the fire had also engulfed 27 other buildings.

Officials ordered the evacuations of 195 homes under immediate threat, but some residents defied orders and stayed to protect their property. About 2,000 homes faced at least some danger from the fast-spreading flames, said Wayne Barringer, a state fire spokesman on the scene.

Most of the evacuated homes are in the town of Midpines, about 12 miles from the park. The southern edge of the blaze was as little as two miles from Mariposa, a town of about 1,800 residents.

"My house is about 100 yards from some fire right now and that's freaking me out," said John Romero, who answered his phone Sunday evening during a break from digging trenches and clearing brush with a little tractor.

Romero said his brother, Tony Romero, has an adjoining property with a 50,000-gallon swimming pool. The brothers planned to pump water from the pool to defend their homes if the fire advanced that far.

He said the air was thick with smoke. "I feel like I've smoked two packs of cigarettes, and I don't smoke," Romero said.

Weather early this week is expected to bring little change from the hot, dry conditions that have plagued California for months. High temperatures are expected to remain in the low- to mid-90s, with low humidity and afternoon wind, National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gudgel said early Monday.

"It'll be a challenging fire for them to fight," Gudgel said.

The fire was 10 percent contained Sunday evening.

State fire officials said the blaze was ignited by sparks created from firearms used for target practice, but would not elaborate.

Mary Ann Porter, a nursing assistant who lives in Midpines, left her goats, chickens and dog when she evacuated Sunday morning. Porter, who lives with her daughter and grandchildren, said the family took pictures and some computer hard drives.

"One of the blessings of living up here is that you adapt and learn to accept things," she said at the evacuation center in Mariposa.

To protect firefighters battling flames beneath power lines, electricity was cut to a wide area fire officials said.

James Guidi Jr., a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, said the transmission line that fed power to Yosemite was destroyed by the fire on Saturday. Mobile generators were being set up to restore power to the whole park and about 500 customers nearby by Monday evening. In all, about 1,000 customers in the area had lost power, Guidi said.

Farther north, in Siskiyou County, authorities reported the death of a second firefighter in as many days. The victim died Saturday while scouting a blaze, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Susan Gravenkamp said Sunday. On Friday, a firefighter was killed by a falling tree while battling another Northern California wildfire.

In Southern California, about 4,000 visitors were evacuated
Sunday from the Los Angeles zoo, and California condors and
vultures in the zoo were relocated, as a brush fire spread through
nearby Griffith Park.

The 25-acre fire was contained in under three hours, and no injuries were reported.

In Montana, air tankers dropped fire retardant along a ridge near the Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort on Sunday to protect the resort from a wildfire. Resort employees were ready to operate the resort's snowmaking equipment to spray cascades of water against the fast-moving blaze, said Forest Service fire information officer Jeff Gildehaus.

Fire officials ordered evacuations Sunday as the fire west of Red Lodge moved steadily toward the east.

The fire on the Custer National Forest had grown to more than 2,500 acres by Sunday evening and burned five summer homes and an outhouse in the historic Camp Senia area, Gildehaus said.
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Associated Press writer Jason Dearen contributed to this report
from San Francisco.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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