Massive wildfire in Mariposa County threatens power supply to Yosemite National Park

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A massive wildfire in Mariposa County triggered a new round of evacuations Tuesday as flames threatened power lines that feed Yosemite National Park, officials said.

The 19,600-acre Detwiler fire, which is burning east of Lake McClure, grew overnight as more than 700 firefighters trudged through steep terrain to reach flames in overgrown vegetation, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

By noon Tuesday, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office extended evacuation orders to residents in the town area of Mariposa, east of Merced. An evacuation center was set up at Mariposa Elementary School.

“The communities of Hunters Valley, Bear Valley, and Hornitos continue to be threatened as the fire encroaches on culturally and historically sensitive areas,” Cal Fire said.

Along the southern flank of the blaze, flames threatened power lines that supply Yosemite National Park, Cal Fire said.

Firefighters were facing volatile fire behavior, mostly due to dry, breezy and hot conditions, said meteorologist Christine Riley of the in Hanford.

Temperatures should cool by as much as four degrees Wednesday, but humidity will remain the same and windy conditions will persist.

The blaze, which was only 5% contained, has destroyed one structure and damaged another.

Farther west, firefighting efforts in Saratoga were hampered Monday night by an unexpected drone sighting, said Ryan Cronin, chief fire investigator for Santa Clara County Fire Department. The 10-acre Eden fire erupted Monday afternoon near the Mountain Winery.

The drone was spotted about 7:40 p.m. as a water-dropping helicopter from Cal Fire prepared to douse the area, he said.

The pilot was forced to ground the copter “for fear of a midair collision” and abandon four water-dropping missions, Cronin said. Firefighters worked overnight to tamp down the flames.

“It really put them in a precarious position,” he said. “We didn’t appreciate that much.”

Fire officials later located and seized the drone, he said.

The Fire Department is investigating the incident.

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