FRESNO, Calif. – A wildfire outside Yosemite National Park more than tripled in size Thursday, prompting officers to warn residents in a gated community to evacuate their homes and leading scores of tourists to leave the area during peak season.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the huge fire, one of several blazes burning in or near the nation’s national parks and one of 50 major uncontained fires burning across the Western U.S.
As flames approached an area of Pine Mountain Lake with 268 homes in the afternoon, deputies went door-to-door to deliver the news and to urge people to leave, Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Scott Johnson said.
The evacuations are not mandatory, although Johnson stressed that the fire, smoke and the potential for power outages pose imminent threats.
“We aren’t going to drag you out of your house, but when we are standing in front of you telling you it’s an advisory, it’s time to go,” he said.
Fire officials said the blaze, which started Saturday, had grown to more than 84 square miles and was only 2 percent contained Thursday, down from 5 percent a day earlier. Two homes and seven outbuildings have been destroyed.
While the park remains open, the blaze has caused the closure of a 4-mile stretch of state Route 120, one of three entrances into Yosemite on the west side, devastating areas that live off of park-fueled tourism.