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Thousands ordered to flee their homes amid California wildfire near Yosemite

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A fast-moving bush fire close to Yosemite National Park in California caused thousands of residents to have to flee their homes. 

The bush fire started on Friday close to the town of Midpines, which is in Mariposa County by Saturday morning. It had expanded to 10 square miles (26 square kilometers), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Daniel Patterson, who is a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest, confirmed that evacuation orders were put in place on Saturday morning for 6,000 people who live in the largely rural area.

“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” the California Fire Department said in a press statement on Saturday morning that described the Oak Fire’s expansion as “extreme with frequent runs, spot fires and group torching.”

The California Fire Department also confirmed that by Saturday morning, the fire had destroyed 10 residential and business properties and 2,000 more were at risk of destruction. Highway 140, which is one of the main routes into Yosemite, has also been closed off.

Over 400 firefighters are battling to bring the blaze under control. They are being assisted by water dropping helicopters and firefighting aircrafts. The initial cause of the fire is unknown, but it has been spurred on by hot weather, low humidity, and dry vegetation.

Daniel Patterson, a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest, said that climate change has warmed up the region over the last 3 decades and along with the dry vegetation, this has led to California experiencing large and deadly wildfires on a more consistent basis.

“The fire is moving quickly. This fire was throwing embers out in front of itself for up to two miles yesterday. These are exceptional fire conditions,” Patterson cautioned.

Pacific Gas & Electric confirmed on their website that over 2,600 homes and businesses in the area were without power as of Friday afternoon and they could not provide any solid guidance on when power would be restored. “PG&E is unable to access the affected equipment,” the company said.

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