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Helicopters evacuate Half Dome hikers as fire in Yosemite grows

A photo of the flames captured by one of the rescued hikers.

A photo of the flames captured by one of the rescued hikers.

Another California wildfire made headlines this weekend, proving this year’s burn season may be one of the harshest in the state’s history. What originated as a small, contained wildfire in Little Yosemite Valley, a remote section of Yosemite National Park, raged out of control after an increase in temperature and wind on Sunday.

The fire threatened the area surrounding Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s biggest attractions, and forced the park evacuate around 100 hikers and campers, many whom had to be airlifted off the iconic peak itself. “We actually had a number of helicopters here in the park that were able to airlift these individuals back to Yosemite Valley so that they could be out of the way of the fire,” said park spokeswoman Kari Cobb. Seven helicopters, three air tankers, and six hotshot crews were in charge of the efforts.

Cobb further explained that the fire had been allowed to burn in Little Yosemite Valley for a week or so prior to the incident because it was relatively controlled. But this weekend, unexpected changes in weather caused it to grow at an alarming rate, scorching at least 700 acres of land before state and local firefighters were able to step in. “We just got unbelievable crazy winds and unexpected hot conditions,” National Park Service employee Tim Ludington told The Fresno Bee. “The fire behavior totally changed.”

Firefighters have been working in the area to contain the flames, and have closed off all trails from the top of Nevada Falls to Merced Lake. The Sunrise Lakes trails and surrounding campgrounds have also been shut down for the time being, but the rest of the park is expected to remain open.


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