23.07.2022, USA, Mariposa County: Feuerwehrleute bereiten ihren Einsatz für Löscharbeiten während der Waldbrände des Oak Fire vor. Der Waldbrand nahe dem US-Nationalpark Yosemite greift weiter um sich. Foto: Ethan Swope/San Francisco Chronicle/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

A massive forest fire is raging near Yosemite National Park in California. The fire had spread “explosively”, the local authorities said on Saturday (local time). Accordingly, it broke out on Friday and spread to around 4800 hectares of land.

The park is famous for its ancient giant sequoia trees and attracts about four million visitors a year, most of whom just visit the central part of the park, Yosemite Valley. It is the third oldest national park in the United States and in the world. In 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Other parts of the US also suffered an “extreme” heatwave over the weekend. Record temperatures were expected in the center and northeast of the country on Sunday.

The “Oak Fire” in California raged mainly in the Mariposa district east of San Francisco and has already destroyed ten houses and damaged five others. Thousands more could fall victim to the flames. Fire activity continued to be “extreme,” it said. More than 6,000 people were evacuated, according to a spokesman for the California Fire Department.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fire was not contained on Saturday. More than 500 firefighters were deployed with firefighting helicopters, among other things. The “Los Angeles Times” reported, citing officials, that it could take another week for the fire to be contained.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a “state of emergency” in Mariposa County on Saturday. Eyewitnesses posted online photos of a huge whirl of thick smoke rising like a tornado over the forest. This dangerous phenomenon, a pyrocumulus or fire cloud, can further fuel the fire.

Suffering from a prolonged drought, the western United States has seen wildfires of exceptional magnitude and intensity in recent years. At the same time, the fire season is getting longer and longer. The fire brigades fear particularly severe forest fires this year.

Other parts of the country also experienced an extreme heatwave over the weekend, which could peak on Sunday. The National Weather Service warned of “extremely oppressive” temperatures in the east, among other places. Temperatures of over 38 degrees were predicted for Sunday in the capital Washington.

In New York, the thermometer rose to around 35 degrees on Saturday. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a “heat-related emergency” due to the high temperatures, which, among other things, allows swimming pools to be open longer.