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Wildfire shuts down highway to Yosemite, threatens town of Mariposa

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A dangerous heat wave broiling California continued to fuel new fires across the state, with 10 new wildfires starting on the Fourth of July holiday alone, including one threatening the town of Mariposa outside Yosemite National Park.

The French fire started near French Camp Road at Highway 49 just northwest of Mariposa before 8 p.m. Thursday and quickly grew to more than 400 acres amid warm temperatures and gusty terrain-driven winds, officials said.

By Friday morning, the fire had charred 842 acres and moved southeast toward Mariposa, shutting down one of the main highways into Yosemite National Park, State Route 140 that turns into El Portal Road, and was 5% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Almost 200 homes with more than 300 people were under evacuation orders in Mariposa, according to a county evacuation map.

“Dozers and hand crews have constructed a fire line around the entire eastern side of the community of Mariposa,” Cal Fire’s Madera-Mariposa-Merced unit posted on Facebook. “As fire activity moderates, firefighters continue to push towards and focus on the eastern side of the fire.”

The National Weather Service predicts it could reach 107 degrees in Mariposa on Friday, 110 on Saturday and 109 on Sunday, all while overnight temperatures never dip below the 70s at night, giving the landscape virtually no ability to regain any moisture that would make it more difficult to catch fire.

After a wet winter, all the early summer heat is priming the state to burn. Ten fires started in the state on Thursday and another Friday morning, Cal Fire’s incident page shows.

The French fire is the largest new blaze in the state, but the biggest currently burning in California is the Basin fire in Fresno County at 14,015 acres with 46% containment. The Thompson fire in Butte County that was threatening Oroville was also 46% contained Friday morning and is 3,789 acres, Cal Fire reported.

In the Southland, the National Weather Service cautioned that elevated fire conditions would persist through next week, particularly along the Antelope Valley foothills and Ventura and Santa Barbara county foothills that are prone to gusty winds that can fan fires.

Inland, Palmdale Airport set a daily record when it peaked at 110 degrees, beating the old record set in 1973, the National Weather Service said. It’s expected to be even warmer Friday.

The Inland Empire will also see extreme heat, with highs expected in the triple digits this weekend.

Those heading to the beach to cool off will have to take extra precautions, as strong ocean currents are expected to create 3- to 6-foot waves as well as rip currents and powerful shorebreaks.



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