Oak Fire scorches California county, forcing evacuations

·3 min read

The fast-moving Oak Fire forced thousands of California residents to flee from their properties over the weekend and additional fires continued to threaten more trails of destruction in the Golden State.

In Mariposa County, approximately 75 miles north of Fresno and 150 miles southeast of Sacramento, the raging Oak Fire has burned through more than 15,000 acres as of Monday morning. Throughout the weekend, more than 3,000 residents were forced to flee their homes.

"It's pretty sad to see the house that I grew up in and was raised in gone," Mariposa County resident Nick Smith told CNN. "It hits hard."

Smith's parents, Jane and Wes Smith, lived in the home for 37 years but were quickly forced out by the flames. Wes, a Mariposa was working to contain the fire, while Jane had to evacuate, but luckily had time to load the family's horses before leaving.

A firefighter extinguishes flames as the Oak Fire crosses Darrah Rd. in Mariposa County, Calif., on Friday, July 22, 2022. Crews were able to stop it from reaching an adjacent home. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

"They had just the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet," Nick Smith said.

The fire started Friday in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and has continued to spread rapidly, remaining at 0% containment as of Monday.

After igniting around 2 p.m., PDT, Friday near the community of Midpines, the fire quickly moved to the Sierra National Forest, burning through a mass amount of trees. Sunday morning, Cal Fire stated that 10 structures have been destroyed due to the flames, with five more damaged and 2,693 still under threat.

Flames consume a home on Triangle Rd. as the Oak Fire burns in Mariposa County, Calif., on Saturday, July 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Oak Fire is by far the largest of California's four ongoing wildfires with 14,281 acres burned, eclipsing Amador County's Electra Fire by nearly 10,000 acres (4,478 acres burned with 99% containment as of Friday).

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The smoke plume from the Oak Fire has been so immense that the smoke can be seen from space satellites.

Smoke from the Mariposa County, California Oak Fire seen from satellite on Sunday, July 24. (Photo via NOAA)

Due to the dire situation in Mariposa County, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the county Saturday, with Newsom's office stating that California was handed a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to gain fire-suppressing resources. Sunday, more than 2,000 fire personnel were called to try and control the flames, both from the ground (with 45 fire engines on call) and in the air via four helicopters.

The fight against the fire, growing to higher than 20 square miles burned, has been hampered by rampant dryness that affects the entire state. Per the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 90% of Mariposa County falls under exceptional drought, while nearly 100% falls under extreme drought.

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