Crews make progress in battling Oak Fire

Firefighters are making progress in containing the Oak Fire burning near Yosemite, which is currently the largest wildfire of the year thus far in California.

The fire, which began Friday, swelled to more than 18,000 acres by Tuesday morning as more than 2,500 personnel continued to battle the blaze. The fire was 26% contained as of Tuesday morning, according to Cal Fire.

The fire forced more than 3,700 people to evacuate as of Monday, and thousands more remain without power in the area, according to PG&E. Fire officials do not expect full containment until Saturday, Public Information Officer Jonathan Pierce, who is working with Cal Fire incident management team five, told The Center Square.

The blaze led Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Mariposa County over the weekend and announce that the state had secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With the grant, the state will receive federal reimbursement of up to 75%, according to Deputy Director Crisis Communication and Public Affairs in the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Brian Ferguson.

The cause of the Oak Fire remains under investigation, according to Pierce.

The Oak Fire underscores an ongoing problem facing the western United States – high temperatures and sustained droughts make wildfires more destructive and harder to contain.

The governor and lawmakers have recently emphasized wildfire resilience in the state budget. The state has spent billions in recent years to address wildfire preparedness, including $1.2 billion in this year’s budget for forest and wildfire resilience. The budget states that this includes $530 million to be allocated this summer “pending additional discussions with the Legislature.”

This year’s budget also includes $39 billion over five years to address the effects of climate change – spending that the governor and lawmakers plan to funnel toward drought mitigation and clean energy projects.

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