More than 2,000 Acres burning in Yosemite

August 27, 2009 7:17:34 PM PDT
A fire that started as a control burn in Yosemite National Park has grown to more than 2,000 acres.The fire that started as a small prescribed burn Wednesday has now torched 2,200 acres and forced the evacuation of about two dozen cabins in Yosemite National Park.

It's burning on the West Side of the Park near highway 120. A large part of the highway remains closed tonight.

One woman who had to evacuate captured the frightening scene on home video.

Juliana Petters and her husband were renting one of the cabins in the community of Foresta for the summer.

But they had to quickly gather their belongings and leave when the fire began closing in on their temporary home around one o'clock this morning.

Petters is nearly seven months pregnant, but she said she kept her cool during the fire, thanks to her experience as a rock climber and a journalist.

However, she said other evacuees did seem scared as the flames moved closer. Action News Reporter Corin Hoggard is live inside Yosemite with the latest on efforts to put out the fire Thursday night.

This is what an accident looks like at Yosemite National Park. Thick plumes of smoke obscure an otherwise majestic view as planes and helicopters try to douse the flames.

About 20 miles away, in Yosemite Valley, the smoke and its smell linger.

Kari Cobb,Yosemite Park Ranger said: "It is fairly smoky here in the park. This morning, it wasn't. It was very crystal clear. About an hour ago, this plume of smoke came in and now you can see little bits of ashes falling from the sky".

The fire started as a prescribed burn, set by the National Park Service. It was supposed to cover 91 acres, breathing new life into the woods by burning off some smothering brush. But then nature tricked the 40 or 50 firefighters monitoring the burn.

Kari Cobb said, "Unfortunately, this fire was a little bit faster and we had a little fewer people than we needed. And it traveled faster than we could keep up with."

The flames spread fast toward the Crane Flat camp site and the Town of Foresta, forcing about 600 evacuations and sending drivers on a 115-mile trip where 20 miles of highway 120 are blocked.

Palo Alto's Mary O'Connor left her cabin in Foresta before she knew there was a fire. Now, she can't go back.

Mary O'Connor said, "Well, I've got the clothes on my back. I have a wallet with a little money, but I don't have my credit cards."

O'Connor and her friends planned to leave for Napa Valley on Friday. But while this dog got rescued by one of the last evacuees on Thursday, the fire is holding O'Connor's belongings hostage, so she's stuck waiting it out. And they're questioning the wisdom of setting a fire during the dog days of August.

Mary O'Connor said, "I'm just wondering if they had enough personnel. 90 acres that they planned is a large area."

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