Miguel Martinez breaks camp at the Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Martinez and his family had to cut their stay short as portions of Yosemite close today to allow crews to battle the Ferguson fire burning nearby. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Arson wildfire forces entire California town to evacuate

The so-called Cranston Fire, which erupted Wednesday in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles, turned into a wall of flame that torched timber and tinder-dry brush.

A fast-moving wildfire — believed to have been sparked by arson — tore through trees, burned five homes and forced evacuation orders for an entire forest town as California sweltered under a heat wave and battled ferocious fires at both ends of the state.

The so-called Cranston Fire, which erupted Wednesday in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles, turned into a wall of flame that torched timber and tinder-dry brush. In a matter of hours it grew to 7 1/2 square miles (19 square kilometres).

It was threatening an estimated 600 homes, authorities said.

The fire was the largest of at least five that police believe were purposely set Wednesday by a man whose car was reportedly spotted at the starting point of the blaze in Riverside County, officials said.

Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula was booked on suspicion of five counts of arson, state fire officials said. It wasn’t clear whether he had an attorney.

Authorities ordered residents to leave Idyllwild and several neighbouring communities, home to about 12,000 people.

William Blodgett of Idyllwild said he couldn’t get home because of the fire and had to wait along with others at a gas station in nearby Mountain Center — until the fire hopped a highway and began to move in his direction.

“We were all peeling out of there as fast as we could,” he told KNBC-TV. “It was apocalyptic.”

Related: Rescue crews search for missing in Greek wildfires; 79 dead

Related: Metal work confirmed cause of wildfire near Kamloops

Horses and other animals were taken to shelters as were several hundred children who were evacuated from summer camps. About 200 were at a local high school serving as a shelter, KCAL-TV reported.

The fire in the San Bernardino National Forest sent up a cloud 50,000 feet high that was so enormous it created its own weather in the form of lightning, the National Weather Service reported.

Throughout the day, helicopters and planes dumped water and fire retardant that turned swathes of land and homes pink. Fire engines also were stationed to protect homes.

The fire is one of several across California amid a heat wave that has seen days of triple-digit temperatures.

To the north, in the San Francisco Bay Area, at least one home burned in a fast-moving blaze in Clayton, where houses are spread out around windy roads.

Yosemite Valley, the scenic heart of the national park, was closed at noon Wednesday during the height of tourist season as smoke cast a pall on the region from a fire in the Sierra Nevada. The closure was heartbreaking for travellers, many of whom mapped out their trips months in advance to hike and climb amid the spectacular views of cascading waterfalls and sheer rock faces.

“We had one guest who planned a weeklong trip,” said Tom Lambert, who owns a vacation rental property near Yosemite Valley. “It was a father-daughter trip, for her high school graduation … Now it’s done. It’s sad.” Another guest had to delay plans to climb Half Dome.

Officials emphasized that Yosemite wasn’t in imminent danger from the fire. Authorities decided on the shutdown to allow crews to perform protective measures such as burning away brush along roadways without having to deal with traffic in the park that welcomes 4 million visitors annually.

Yosemite Valley will be closed until at least Sunday, along with a winding, mountainous, 20-mile (32-kilometre) stretch of California’s State Route 41 that leads into the area, Gediman said.

At least 1,000 campground and hotel bookings were cancelled — to say nothing of the impact on day visitors, park workers and small businesses along the highway, Gediman said.

The last time the 7.5-mile-long (12-kilometre-long) valley was closed because of fire was 1990, he said.

Over nearly two weeks, flames have churned through 60 square miles (155 square kilometres) of timber in steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park. The fire was just 25 per cent contained.

More than 3,300 firefighters are working the fire, aided by 16 helicopters. One firefighter was killed July 14, and six others have been injured.

In the state’s far north, a 7-square-mile (18-square-kilometre) wildfire has forced the evacuation of French Gulch, a small Shasta County community that dates to the Gold Rush.

___

Noah Berger reported from Yosemite; Chris Weber from Los Angeles. AP reporters Robert Jablon, Michael Balsamo and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed.

___

Marcio Sanchez, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Man arrested after door closed on fraud attempt

Ponoka dealership integral to capturing alleged theif, con artist

Yellow Vest Canada members make trip to Ponoka

A small group of Yellow Vest Canada members gathered at the Ponoka… Continue reading

UPDATED: Two wooden play structures in Ponoka set to be removed

No immediate plans to replace playground equipment

UPDATED: Sink hole from rain causes sewer line issue

Affected residents can now safely flush toilets

Bashaw seed cleaning plant holds official opening

New facility operating well since January

Lightning hits pair of vehicles near Ponoka

AMA urges drivers to stay safe when storms roll in

Maskwacis RCMP seek public assistance to locate missing female

Maskwacis RCMP is asking for public assistance to locate 26-year-old Crystal Rowan.… Continue reading

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Buccaneers pillage Irish 36-0

Central Alberta bounces back after off week against Wolfpack

Most Read