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'Explosive' wildfire tears through homes as thousands forced to flee in California
24 July 2022, 08:22 | Updated: 24 July 2022, 08:54
An "explosive" wildfire that has rampaged through homes and forced thousands to evacuate has triggered a state of emergency in part of California.
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More than 2,000 homes have been left without power and 10 residential and commercial buildings have been destroyed as the blaze – dubbed the "Oak Fire" – swelled to almost 19 square miles in Mariposa County. More than 2,000 buildings are under threat.
Some 6,000 people living in the rural area have been ordered to leave as more than 400 firefighters tackle the flames alongside aircraft and bulldozers, but the hot weather, low humidity and dry vegetation caused by the worst draught for decades has hampered their efforts.
A state of emergency has been declared in Mariposa County, which includes part of Yosemite National Park. The blaze is near to the famous tourist attraction.
Dramatic images show columns of fire rise out of charred forests and structures entirely ablaze.
Photos from the aftermath of fire-struck areas show burnt out vehicles that have been completely destroyed, resting on the scorched earth by ravaged trees.
California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement that "explosive fire behaviour is challenging firefighters", calling it "extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching".
The state's governor Gavin Newsom said the fire was helped by "hot, dry weather and drought conditions".
Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest, said the fire was moving rapidly and throwing embers out to two miles in what he described as "exceptional fire conditions".
The cause of the fire is being investigated. Firefighters are also battling a blaze in the southern part of Yosemite, which burned almost eight square miles of forest and was one of the largest fires in California this year.
Mariposa County saw temperatures of 35C on Saturday.
California is seeing worsening fires due to the warmer and drier conditions brought on by climate change.
It follows fires last week across Europe, as countries experienced severe heatwaves.
Tuesday - which brought 40C heat for the first time in Britain's history - was the busiest day for the London Fire Brigade since the Second World War, London's mayor Sadiq Khan said.