The Detwiler wildfire started Sunday near the lake and has spread rapidly through dry grass and brush since then. California received exceptional rainfall this past winter, which encouraged vegetation growth. But when extreme summer heat waves struck earlier this season, the new growth dried up rapidly.
Flames from a backfire burn as CalFire crews battle the Ditwiler Fire near Mariposa, Calif., on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Record rain and snowfall in the mountains this winter was celebrated for bringing California's five-year drought to its knees, but it has turned into a challenge for firefighters battling flames feeding on dense vegetation, officials said. (Noah Berger)
Photos of the Detwiler wildfire raging in California
The flames are sprinting across the dry landscape. Firefighters are battling “extreme and aggressive fire behavior,” according to Cal Fire. The fire is jumping roads and blowing across the tree canopy, and daytime heating is creating uphill winds that draw the fire with them. The poor conditions led to an exceptional increase in fire size between Tuesday and Wednesday.
The wildfire is less than a mile north of Mariposa, Calif., which was ordered evacuated Wednesday. The city is home to more than 2,000 people. On Wednesday afternoon, winds from the south seemed favorable for Mariposa, but they are expected to change.
Over the next three days, wind speeds will remain constant but their direction will shift — from south to west to northeast and back again. That could make it difficult for officials to control the spread of the fire. Humidity is low at 25 percent and will stay that way for the next several days.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County on Tuesday, which will provide assistance to those who have lost or may soon lose their homes and belongings.
The fire is just 10 miles east of where Highway 140 — which is now closed — enters Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was open as of Wednesday afternoon, though live webcams of the park showed pockets of haze, including one shot of El Capitan obscured by thick smoke.
The fire also threatens power lines that provide electricity to Yosemite, the AP reports.
Thirty-five fire crews made up of more than 2,000 firefighters are working to control the blaze. Nine tanker planes and 11 helicopters are battling the wildfire from the air.