Evacuations ordered as new California wildfire ignites in scorching heat wave

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Scorching temperatures on the Fourth of July fueled wildfires in California that have burned through the night, as warnings from meteorologists that the holiday period could be hit by dangerously high heat came to pass.

With much of the country in the grip of a heat wave that is set to break daily temperature records and make conditions dangerously hot during the holiday weekend, a large and uncontained blaze near Yosemite National Park has triggered evacuations and forced hospital patients to shelter in place.

The French fire, in Mariposa County, California, began Thursday and was 0% contained by Friday morning, having burned through 791 acres, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Almost the entire town of Mariposa was under a mandatory evacuation order, with a large area to the east under an evacuation warning.

In a video posted to her Facebook page, Regina Lewis said the “entire mountain above the High School is on fire” in the town of Mariposa and had reached a largely residential street.

Other footage taken in the area and posted to social media showed the sky illuminated bright orange by huge flames, amid enormous clouds of smoke. Another video showed a plane dropping fire retardant over a forested area near Mariposa on Thursday.

Almost 3,500 energy customers were without power Friday morning in Mariposa County, according to the PowerOutage.us website.

In Northern California the much larger Thompson Fire continues to rage across Butte County, where it has burned through almost 1,800 acres and is only 29% contained.

The fire broke out Tuesday in Oroville, 65 miles north of Sacramento, and has forced at least 28,000 people to evacuate, although some have begun to return to their homes after the order was downgraded.

Lynette Bailey told NBC News Thursday that she had to scramble to get her 90-year-old father safely to a nearby shelter.

“It was panic, because my dad didn’t want to leave and I told him, ‘You gotta get in the car right now.’”

But because there are no shelter places left for her dog, Bailey spent the last two days outside in the heat. “It’s really sad. I’m out here in this 108 degrees… I’m more worried about my dad,” she said.

Many Fourth of July celebrations were canceled across California on Thursday as temperatures soared past the 100 degree mark, while places reached 110.

Cal Fire and Butte County Fire Department said Thursday that a 61-year-old man named Harold Pulley was arrested Tuesday afternoon for allegedly starting a backfire, a small controlled blaze designed to help contain a larger one, which was extinguished by firefighters.

“An individual was observed setting a backfire on a property located off Oro Quincy Highway,” the authorities said in a statement. Pulley admitted setting the fire with a propane torch and was jailed on a felony charge of unlawfully causing a fire to wildland.

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