MARIPOSA, California (Reuters) - More than 2,500 firefighters struggled in hot summer weather and across rugged terrain on Monday to prevent a wildfire that has charred more than 26,000 acres from advancing toward world-famous Yosemite National Park.
The so-called Telegraph Fire’s northwest flank is approaching Coulterville, while its southeast flank threatens Mariposa, towns along rural roads leading to Yosemite in north-central California, fire officials said.
Working in 90-degree (32-Celsius) heat and windy conditions, firefighters were hitting hard at the north end of the fire, said Kevin Colburn, a spokesman for Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency.
The heat is making already parched trees and brush burn more easily and wind gusts threaten to spread the flames.
“Our main objective here today is to protect the structures within the immediate fire-threat area,” Sarah Gibson, a Cal Fire spokeswoman said. “There is still a threat to Mariposa because the fire is active on all sides.”
The blaze, currently 10 percent contained, is about 8 miles
from the western edge of Yosemite and officials said they aimed to stop it from moving toward the park through steep terrain along the Merced River canyon.
Thick clouds of smoke blanket the skies above the fire but Yosemite remains open to the public as the fire does not pose an imminent danger, National Park Service spokesman Joe Meyer said.
“It’s not moving quickly or aggressively toward the park,” Meyer said.
Fire crews, backed by helicopters and air tankers, are working to prevent the blaze from burning into Mariposa and Coulterville and to protect homes in and around Midpines, another town west of the park where the blaze destroyed 12 homes and 27 outbuildings.
Sparks from bullets fired by a target shooter started the fire on Friday afternoon, officials said.
Reporting by Robert Galbraith in Mariposa, California and Suzanne Hurt in Sacramento, California; Editing by Peter Cooney