Environment & Science

Crews gain on fire near Sierra Nevada that has destroyed 10 homes; Yosemite fire continues to grow

El Portal Fire burning in Mariposa County burned one home on Saturday and forced evacuations.
El Portal Fire burning in Mariposa County burned one home on Saturday and forced evacuations.
Courtesy Harry Vanderburg, Mariposa County Fire
El Portal Fire burning in Mariposa County burned one home on Saturday and forced evacuations.
The Sand Fire burning in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains has prompted evacuations in the area.
Courtesy James Thorall

Firefighters in Northern California Sunday continued to battle a wildfire that has destroyed 10 homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Another brushfire near Yosemite National Park destroyed one home Saturday night.

Update 5:35 p.m.: Crews gain on Sand Fire in Sierra Nevada foothills 

Firefighters in the Sierra Nevada foothills were able to make some progress Sunday on the Sand Fire that has forced around 1,200 people from their homes.

Calfire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said officials will likely be able to announce that they've contained more of the fire Sunday, but they won't likely lift evacuations until Monday at earliest.

"Today, even though the weather was hot, a little breezy, firefighters have been able to keep the fire in check and have make good progress on it," she said, adding that evacuations will remain in effect.

"They won't lift them at night, just because when darkness falls it makes it so much harder to get people back into their homes," she said. "If they do repopulate, they'll do it during the daytime."

Firefighters are planning to work all night to get an upper hand, though they won't be supported by aircraft.

"At night, they try to get as much done as they possibly can because the weather conditions are so much more favorable," Tolmachoff said. 

More video and photos surfaced online, including this one of the fire approaching homes: 

Video: Sand Fire

– KPCC staff

Update 11:27 a.m.: Wildfires near Sierra Nevada, Yosemite destroy 11 homes

East of Sacramento, the Sand Fire has burned about 3,800 acres, roughly 6 square miles, of steep, rugged terrain near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties since Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

FireTracker: Sand Fire in Amador County

The fire, which has also destroyed seven outbuildings, was 35 percent contained Sunday morning, but threatens hundreds of homes, CalFire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said. It could grow again Sunday as firefighters brace for high wind and triple-digit heat in the drought-stricken region.

"All of the vegetation in the area is struggling. It's burning very easily," Tolmachoff said. "It causes the fire to be a lot hotter and to spread more easily."

West of Yosemite National Park, a wildfire that began Saturday afternoon quadrupled in size overnight to 2,100 acres, or more than 3 square miles, and was burning out of control Sunday. It destroyed one home in the small community of Foresta, adjacent to the park, Ranger Scott Gediman said. The park itself remained open.

The Sand Fire in the Sierra foothills has prompted authorities to evacuate about 500 homes and close several roads near the town of Plymouth. Nearly 1,500 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, are working to control the blaze.

CalFire officials say a vehicle that drove over dry vegetation started the fire, which has sent up huge plumes of smoke and worsened air quality in the Sacramento area.

Alfred Shults, his wife, Carolyn, and their granddaughter fled their home in El Dorado County on Friday after receiving an automated telephone call ordering residents to evacuate, according to the Sacramento Bee. Before he left, Shults said he packed as much as he could into his vehicle and turned on a sprinkler to soak the area around his beloved motorcycle.

"We just wanted to get out of there, and hope there's something left when we get back," Alfred Shults, 65, told the Sacramento Bee on Saturday as they waited for news at an evacuation center in Placerville.

Meanwhile, about 400 firefighters aided by fixed-wing helicopters were battling the flames Yosemite, Gediman said. The cause wasn't immediately known.

FireTracker: El Portal Fire in Mariposa County

About 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal were evacuated. Two shelters were opened for people and animals.

"There have been no injuries so far, which is wonderful," Gediman said.

The park itself, home to such sites as Half Dome mountain, Yosemite Meadows, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees and other wonders, remained open Sunday. None of its treasures were threatened, Gediman said, although some areas were smoky.

The Crane Flat campground and Highway 120, a major highway leading to the park from the San Francisco Bay Area, were closed, but other roads were open. So were hotels and other amenities.

Wildfires also burned in other Western states, including Colorado and Utah. The nation's largest wildfire, the 618-square-mile Buzzard Complex in eastern Oregon, was 95 percent contained Saturday. Crews in north-central Washington made progress on the 390-square mile Carlton Complex wildfire that has burned an estimated 300 homes.

— Associated Press