Wildfires began to capture media attention as flames engulfed an acreage of the Stanislaus National Forest on August 17. And now, California is experiencing its fifth biggest wildfire in the states history. Reports have noted that these fires have burned an area the size of Dallas with only 40 percent of it progressively contained. Though there have been no reports of serious injuries, at least 11 homes and hundreds of square miles of historical pines and oaks have been destroyed as wildfires continue to grow across California.
Now, smoke from the blaze has reached its way into California’s Yosemite Valley, intruding on many vacationers stay. Though the campgrounds for tourists were full this weekend, smells from the smoke and fire, as well as falling ash, were prominent. Visitors were cautioned to limit their outdoor plans to avoid potential danger from the fires.
“I cannot see the cliffs around me,” noted Kari Cobb, a park spokeswoman. “The wind has shifted and smoke is impacting the entire park.” With Labor Day Weekend being a popular time for guests at the Yosemite National Park, many tourists have felt an impact on their fun, some even being told to stay put in their hotels due to smoke buildup and road closures. With the northern section of Yosemite having burned nearly 94 square miles of forest, officials evacuated residents in the western entrance of Yosemite after a 150 acre fire had been spotted crossing a road.
Authorities have issued hazardous warnings for various towns and cities around the Sierra Nevada area as the fire has raised bigger concerns for the residents in the north.
The smoke from the wildfire has affected other parts across the country, too, as drifts of smoke have been traveling over 25,000 miles into the Mid-Western areas of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Satellites are even tracking it in parts of Canada as the wildfires continue to grow across California.
With more than 5,000 firefighters tackling the California wildfires on the scene, many are facing the added hot and dry forecast which is expecting to prolong the fires and threaten nearly 4,500 more structures, according to the local Forest Service. “Air operations are going full-blast,” assured U.S. Forest Service Spokesman Mark Healey. “[We will] bring this fire under control.”
Though no confirmation has been cited concerning what ignited the fires, investigations have sprang since the fire chief, Todd McNeal, pointed to the possibility of blaming illegal marijuana growers for the fires, often common causes in secluded areas of the forests. “We know [the fires are] human caused,” said McNeal.
Chairman for the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, Randy Hanvelt also acknowledged this possibility. “We know that these illegal pot growers are out in our forests,” he said, “And [we] think this fire just wiped out a whole bunch of them.”
As wildfires continue to grow across California, firefighters and officials are expecting a remaining strenuous job ahead as they continue to contain the fires. “We’re not out of the woods with this,” said spokesman for Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Dennis Mathisen, “[Not] by any stretch of the imagination.”
Written by Annie Elizabeth Martin