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JERSEYDALE, Calif. – Firefighters continue to make progress against a huge California forest fire that forced evacuations for thousands of people and destroyed 41 homes and other buildings near Yosemite National Park, officials said Tuesday.
Crews battling the Oak Fire in Mariposa County got a break from increased humidity levels as monsoonal moisture moved through the Sierra Nevada foothills, said a Tuesday morning report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
After minimal growth Monday and overnight, the blaze had consumed more than 28 square miles (72 square km) of forest land, with 26% containment on Tuesday, Cal Fire said. The cause was under investigation.
“Fire crews continue providing structure defense, extinguishing hot spots, and building and improving direct fire lines,” the report said.
About 6,000 residents from mountain communities were still under evacuation orders while heavy smoke from the fire drifted more than 200 miles (322 kilometers), reaching Lake Tahoe, parts of Nevada and the San Francisco Bay Area, officials said.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters with aircraft support were battling the blaze that erupted last Friday southwest of the park, near the town of Midpines. It exploded in size on Saturday as flames churned through tinder-dry brush and trees amid the worst drought in decades.
Numerous roads were closed, including a stretch of State Route 140 that’s one of the main routes into Yosemite.
California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.
The Oak Fire burned as firefighters also made progress against an earlier blaze that burned to the edge of a grove of giant sequoias in the southernmost part of Yosemite. The Washburn Fire, spanning a 7.6-square-mile (19-square-km) area, was 87% contained on Tuesday after burning for more than two weeks and moving into the Sierra National Forest.
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