Wildfire in California Doubles in Size, Threatens 1,000-Plus Homes

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By Daniel Arkin

A massive wildfire burning out of control in central California doubled in size overnight, forcing thousands of homeowners to flee the area, fire officials said Wednesday.

The Detwiler fire, burning in Mariposa County southwest of Yosemite, had scorched more than 45,000 acres and was just 7 percent contained by Wednesday afternoon, according to Cal Fire.

The blaze threatens about 1,500 homes and buildings — as well as power lines supplying electricity to Yosemite National Park, officials said. At least eight structures have already been destroyed.

The fire prompted evacuations of affected towns, and Gov. Jerry Brown late Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County, which is home to about 17,400 people.

The communities of Hunters Valley, Bear Valley, Catheys Valley, Mormon Bar, Mariposa town, Mount Bullion, Yaqui Gulch/Aqua Fria and Hornitos were under threat, Cal Fire said, adding that the wildfire was encroaching on "culturally and historically sensitive areas."

Conditions were hot and dry in the area on Wednesday, with temperatures in the low 90s and humidity around 20 percent.

"The biggest concern for them is going to the be the winds," said Carlos Molina, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "That gives the fire oxygen, the fuel to really take off."

A large section of Yosemite National Park's western edge was burned in the 2013 Rim fire, one of the three largest fires in California since accurate record keeping began in 1932.