OAKHURST — A wildfire that forced about 1,000 people from their homes in the foothills near Yosemite National Park held steady Tuesday as humidity and calmer winds aided the fight against the second blaze around the park in recent weeks.
The fire in Madera County remained at a little under 2 square miles but had destroyed eight structures and was threatening about 500 homes around Oakhurst, a community of several thousand about 16 miles from a Yosemite entrance, fire and sheriff's officials said.
Additional firefighters were brought in to attack the blaze that began a day earlier and was fueled by gusty winds and dry brush, with embers flying ahead up to half a mile.
"We're not seeing the fire expand like we thought," Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said.
Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for about 1,000 people, and another 4,000 were told to prepare to leave their homes, sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said. The park was not affected, though State Route 41 toward Yosemite was closed.
The fire comes amid California's third straight year of drought, creating tinder-dry conditions that have significantly increased the fire danger around the state and sent firefighters scrambling seemingly nonstop from blaze to blaze.
Evacuated residents in Oakhurst braced for the worst.
"There is nothing you can do when a fire is raging," said Clement Williams, 67. "You just have to flee. It's a real sinking feeling."
Williams and his wife, Gretchen Williams, 63, were trying to get information about the fire and their home from officials. They spent the night at a nearby hotel and casino.
Oakhurst was smoky, and businesses downtown were closed as the fire burned about a mile away. Flames were not visible from the downtown area as they moved away from town toward a nearby reservoir and resort community, state fire spokesman Chris Christopherson said.