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California’s Oak Fire rapidly grows into one of the largest fires of the year, U.S.

oak fire july 23 2022 landsat 8 pierre markuse


Oak Fire started on July 22, 2022, in California’s Mariposa County and rapidly spread to more than 6 314 ha (15 603 acres) over the next 3 days. As of early July 25, it was 0% contained.

Fueled by extreme heat and tinder-dry forests and underbrush, the fire began within 0.8 km (0.5 miles) from the town of Mariposa Pines rapidly growing into one the largest fires of the year.1

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the fire has so far destroyed 10 structures and damaged 5 others.

More than 6 000 people were placed under evacuation orders.

More than 3 100 customers in the area are without power. Pacific Gas & Electric said they are still unable to access the affected equipment, adding that there is currently no indication when the power will be restored.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County.

Huge and very dense smoke plumes visible in this incredible but pretty dramatic Landsat-8 image. Please note that smoke motion and hotspots were added.

Cal Fire officials said they had robust firefighting teams on scene early on, but the fire progressed atypically and overran their best efforts.2

The fire was moving east up into the sierra, toward the town of Mariposa Pines and in the direction of Yosemite, Justin Macomb, a Cal Fire operations section chief, said on July 24.

“The fire quickly outflanked us. We couldn’t even attack it with the resources that we had on hand,” Macomb said.

“In my career, I haven’t seen fire behavior like that.”

oak fire july 23 2022 landsat 8 pierre markuse
Oak Fire on July 23, 2022. Credit: USGS/Landsat-8. Processed by Pierre Markuse

The fire is spreading toward Yosemite National Park, located just about an hour’s drive from Mariposa County. The park is home to some of the largest and oldest sequoia trees in the world.

Yosemite is still open, however, Highway 140 is closed from the junction of Highway 140 and 49 on the north end of Mariposa to Ponderosa Way.3

Highways 120 and 41 currently provide uninterrupted access to the north and south gates of Yosemite. The western gate, Highway 140, is open, but visitors coming from Mariposa or further into California’s Central Valley will need to detour.

In Yosemite National Park, the town of Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias remain closed due to the Washburn Fire which is 79% contained. The southern entrance to Yosemite (Highway 41) reopened as of 06:00 LT on July 23.

References:

1 Oak Fire Incident – Cal Fire – July 25, 2022

2 California’s Oak Fire spreads uncontained toward Yosemite – Reuters – July 25, 2022

3 Highway 140 Closed North of Mariposa due to Oak Fire – Yosemite NP – July 24, 2022

Featured image: Oak Fire on July 23, 2022. Credit: USGS/Landsat-8. Processed by Pierre Markuse

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