Just under 5,000 acres of Yosemite National Park is burning, though as of September 12 the fire was 50 percent contained.
The lightning-sparked fire, east of Half Dome near Little Yosemite Valley, began in July but was considered nonthreatening as it “burned uneventfully” for a month or more, the Los Angeles Times reported. “Crews didn’t extinguish it because it was considered part of the forest’s natural burn and regrowth process.”
“Most fires within the Yosemite National Park naturally burn themselves out,” the National Parks Service said in its incident report. “Only a small number of fires show potential for large fire growth and fire suppression action is needed to mitigate the threat to resources. Fire is an important component to the health of the park's sensitive ecology.”
But on Sunday September 7 it was pushed along by high winds and suddenly burgeoned from 19 acres to 2,600 acres in a day, the Los Angeles Times said. Nearly 100 hikers and mountain climbers had to be evacuated by helicopter.
No structures are threatened, according to the National Parks Service incident report. As of September 12, 4,933 acres had been burned, and containment was at 50 percent, up from just 23 percent on September 11.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, in which President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove “for public use, resort, and recreation… inalienable for all time.”
The region contains numerous sacred sites.