Fire threatens thousands of homes near Yosemite |

Fire threatens thousands of homes near Yosemite

MIDPINES, CALIF. ” A fast-spreading fire near an entrance to Yosemite National Park forced residents to evacuate 170 homes and caused officials to cut power to the park.

The fire grew from about 11/2 square miles to 25 square miles on Saturday, and was threatening about 2,000 homes, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 900 firefighters battled the blaze on both sides of a steep, rugged canyon along the Merced River.

Most of the evacuated homes were in the town of Midpines, located along Highway 140, the thoroughfare that leads to the park’s west entrance.

State fire spokeswoman Karen Guillemin said the cause of the fire “is definitely target shooting,” but he would not elaborate.

The National Weather Service forecast sunny weather Sunday with temperatures in the high 90s.

On Saturday, firefighting efforts were hampered by temperatures over 100 degrees and low humidity. The weather, coupled with a dry wilderness area, has made fighting the blaze very hazardous.

“Dozers are trying to push dirt as fast as they can to get safety zones for our firefighters that are out there,” Guillemin said. “Crews are cutting brush as fast as they can but it’s an extremely dangerous situation at this point.”

The California National Guard planned to send two Blackhawk helicopters, Capt. Al Bosco said.

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