Weather offers little relief as crews battle Calif. wildfires
12 homes ruined, 200 evacuated
MARIPOSA, Calif. - Little relief from hot weather is expected this week as crews fight to contain a wildfire near Yosemite National Park that has destroyed 12 homes and forced the evacuation of about 200 others.
The blaze has charred more than 26,000 acres - over 40 square miles - since Friday as wooded slopes ignited. Besides homes, the fire has 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 houses are in the town of Midpines, about 12 miles from the park.
A manager at the Yosemite Bug, a hostel in Midpines popular with European backpackers, said most guests had left over the weekend, but a few brave travelers stayed yesterday to try to spot Yosemite Valley's celebrated granite peaks through the smoke.
"Some of them just don't care, they just want to see the beauties of Yosemite," said manager Carrie Kidwell. "We had guests in here this morning going to the park, and I advised them to take their things with them because we don't know which way the wind's going to shift between now and when they get back."
At the peak of summer, as many as 4,000 visitors a day stream into the park. Park officials expected to see thousands of visitors yesterday, despite the fires.
Some residents stayed within the evacuation zone to battle the flames on their own.
"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 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.
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 yesterday.
State fire officials said the blaze was ignited by sparks created from firearms used for target practice, but would not elaborate.
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 less than three hours, and no injuries were reported.
Farther north in Siskiyou County, two firefighters have died as a result of blazes - one on Saturday while scouting a fire and the other Friday by a falling tree while battling another.
In south-central Montana, a fast-moving wildfire near the Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort grew to 5,100 acres yesterday. Five summer homes and an outbuilding have been destroyed, and 80 to 100 homes were evacuated as a precaution.