Yosemite wildfire burning in trees killed by beetles

August 14, 2017

WAWONA, Calif. (AP) — Rangers at Yosemite National Park have alerted a small community about a wildfire that crews are struggling to contain as they fight it from the air and ground, officials said Monday.

Flames have come within 2 miles (3 kilometers) of Wawona, a tiny community near the park's south entrance that swells this time of year with up to 2,000 visitors attending a church camp and renting cabins around a market and small library.

A lightning strike in recent weeks may be to blame for the blaze that erupted into a wildfire on Sunday afternoon, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.

It has burned 1.4 square miles (2.6 square kilometers) of wilderness and pine forests 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Fresno. Firefighters do not have the flames' boundary contained, the National Park Service reported.

It is burning through forest thick with trees killed during California's recent five-year drought that weakened trees, leaving many vulnerable to a beetle infestation, officials reported.

No campgrounds or popular Yosemite destinations have been closed due to the blaze, and rangers have not ordered anyone to leave Wawona.

"We've been out notifying residences and businesses," he said, adding that smoke from the fire has blown into Yosemite Valley, causing hazy air.

Farther south in California, crews saved several homes as a wildfire roared on hillsides near the University of California, Riverside. It was 30 percent contained Monday. Officials previously reported 44 percent containment but revised the figure after a daylight survey.

Evacuation orders were lifted after firefighters beat back the flames with help from retardant-dropping aircraft.

The fire, which broke out Sunday in the foothills of Box Springs Mountain, has scorched about 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) of dry brush.


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