The Gulch Fire started last night and is 15 percent contained. The Redding Record Searchlight has updates.
Update, 9:15 a.m. Thursday: The Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park is now spread over 4,906 acres as of about 8:30 a.m. today. The fire, in a wilderness area within Little Yosemite Valley, east of Half Dome, is 23 percent contained. The National Wildlife Coordinating Group's InciWeb site reports little growth in the fire overnight. The highest priority is to open the trail to Half Dome, the site reports.
One obstacle to firefighting efforts: bears. "Bears continue to be a major issue with fire crew safety in spike camps and along the fire line. Extensive measures are being taken not to attract bears to the food and other supplies. Trash is being backhauled daily."
Meanwhile, the Happy Camp Complex Fire in the Klamath National Forest has expanded to 107,359 acres and is 30 percent contained. Fire-related closures here.
A Sept. 9 smoke advisory for the Bay Area-related the fires up north is still in effect throughout today. You can check out current air quality for all of California here.
Update, 2:45 p.m. Wednesday: Some updated numbers on the backcountry fire burning in Yosemite National Park. Spokeswoman Kari Cobb says the fire has burned 4,532 acres and is 10 percent contained with about 400 firefighters and eight helicopters working to limit its spread. The fire's growth has slowed dramatically since midday Tuesday, when it was reported to be about 4,400 acres.
Cobb also said that the impact of smoke in the park is expected to be much less than on Tuesday, when a thick haze shrouded Yosemite Valley. The park remains open to visitors, though several trails east and northeast of Yosemite Valley are closed, including those in the Echo Creek drainage to Little Yosemite Valley, the Sunrise Creek drainage to Little Yosemite Valley, the Merced River corridor to Merced Lake Ranger Station, and the Sunrise Trail to Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a smoke advisory, as the Yosemite fire and a much larger blaze in far Northern California continue to emit thick plumes into the atmosphere.
The U.S. Forest Service says the Happy Camp Complex fire -- a combination of the lightning-sparked Frying Pan and Falkstein fires -- is now 105,198 acres and 30 percent contained. Windy weather Monday and Tuesday pushed the blaze rapidly to the east and southeast and prompted the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office to issue new evacuation orders and advisories. During the course of the fire, which started Aug. 11, it has threatened hundreds of homes and triggered a series of evacuation alerts. So far, eight structures have been destroyed or damaged.
Further details, by way of the Associated Press:
Kerry Greene, a spokeswoman for the fire in the Klamath National Forest, says two homes were destroyed this week when winds fueled the blaze. Another two homes were destroyed earlier. The fire has also damaged or destroyed four other buildings.
U.S. Forest Service spokesman Rudy Evenson says 274 residents are under mandatory evacuation orders, and at least that many people have been told to be ready to leave home if the fire worsens.
If you're not conversant with Northern California geography, the fire is burning about 20 to 30 miles west of Interstate 5 and 15 miles or so south of the Oregon border.
Update, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday: Yosemite officials say the smoldering blaze that roared to life in the national park's backcountry has grown to more than 4,400 acres, up from about 2,600 Monday afternoon. The fire is 5 percent contained.
While the park remains open, Yosemite Valley and other areas are experiencing heavy smoke. The blaze, dubbed the Meadow Fire, grew out of a lightning strike on Aug. 16. Yosemite fire managers had been monitoring the small fire that resulted but did not attempt to contain it. Before it blew up during windy, dry conditions Sunday, it had consumed just 20 acres in three weeks.
Far, far to the north, meantime, the long-running Happy Camp Complex fire has grown to nearly 104,000 acres and continues to defy efforts to keep it from spreading. Brisk northwesterly winds on Monday sparked spot fires on the blaze's eastern and southeastern perimeter and prompted new evacuation orders for areas near the Scott River south of where it flows into the Klamath River. Despite the massive acreage burned so far, in an area south of the Klamath and west of Interstate 5 near the Oregon border, just two structures have been reported destroyed or damaged to date.
About 2,500 personnel are fighting the blaze, which is 30 percent contained.
Update, 3:45 p.m. Monday: Yosemite officials say the fire that flared up Sunday, forcing the helicopter evacuation of about 185 visitors from trails in relatively remote parts of the park, has burned nearly 2,600 acres. They also say the weather Monday -- less windy and somewhat more humid than Sunday -- should slow the blaze.
Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said Monday that officials decided to pick up about 100 people in the Little Yosemite Valley area and another 85 from Half Dome because they wanted to clear the fire zone as quickly as possible.
"It would take all those individuals several hours to come out of the backcountry, come out of the location where the fire is," Cobb told KQED's Ted Goldberg. "We wanted to make sure our visitors were safe and that we weren't putting them in a position where they were unable to leave."
Cobb also said that at least some of those evacuated seemed to get a thrill out of their once-in-a-lifetime Yosemite chopper flight:
I was actually able to talk to some of those people that came off the helicopter, and most of them were really excited that they got to have a helicopter ride in Yosemite. It's not every day you get to fly over Yosemite like that.
Lightning ignited the blaze, called the Meadow Fire, on Aug. 16. National Park Service fire managers elected to monitor the fire instead of immediately suppress it. The fire spread very slowly, and last Thursday it was reported to have burned through 19 acres.
The park says a force of 120 firefighters is combating the backcountry blaze, aided by seven helicopters and two fixed-wing airplanes. Trails near the Half Dome area, the Little Yosemite Valley area, Merced Lake and Sunrise High Sierra Camps, Clouds Rest and Echo Valley are closed. The trail to Half Dome, east of Nevada Fall and including the cables to the peak, is closed through at least Thursday.
Original post, based mainly on Associated Press reports:
Update, 8:10 a.m.: A small backcountry wildfire burning for weeks in Yosemite National Park burst to life on Sunday, forcing the helicopter evacuation of about 100 park visitors.
Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said Monday the Meadow Fire, which was started by lightning in mid-August, had grown to 2,500 acres from a reported 700 Sunday evening. The fire is at 0 percent containment. Some of those evacuated from the fire zone on Sunday included hikers who had climbed the park's iconic Half Dome peak, rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley. Others had to be airlifted from campgrounds and hiking trails in the area.
Roads into the park are open, but several trails are closed.
Firefighters had monitored the lightning-sparked fire that started Aug. 16 between Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, and last Thursday the park reported the fire had covered about 19 acres. But the flames were fueled by strong winds and high temperatures Sunday.
"We just got unbelievable crazy winds and unexpected hot conditions," Tim Ludington, the park's chief of roads and trails, told the Fresno Bee. "The fire behavior totally changed."
Also according to the Bee:
While the fire was originally allowed to burn for forest restoration and other objectives, firefighters are now working to fully suppress the flames, park officials said.
On the scene Sunday afternoon were seven helicopters, three air tankers and one air attack plane, according to a Yosemite fire information update posted online. Additionally, six hotshot crews of 20 people each arrived Sunday evening along with Yosemite fire crews. It takes firefighters about a day to hike into the remote area.
About 15 miles southwest of the park, firefighters were slowly gaining the upper hand on a wildfire near the town of Mariposa.
The 300-acre blaze was 70 percent contained, and an evacuation order already has been lifted for the 300 homes most threatened by the fire, Cal Fire said. A portion of Highway 49 was briefly closed.
Steep terrain in the area and the dry conditions brought on by California's drought initially hampered firefighters, one of whom received a minor injury Friday, officials said.
Meanwhile, in Siskiyou County, the state's biggest fire of 2014 grew to nearly 100,000 acres over the weekend. The Happy Camp Complex, a group of lightning-sparked fires that have burned together south of the Klamath River in the mountains west of Yreka, is about 30 percent contained.
The fire is one of several that has caused prolonged air-quality alerts in Northern California and southern Oregon, and has grown to nearly 100,000 acres. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued an advisory over the weekend that smoke from the north could affect much of the Bay Area, and a smoky haze was visible over much of the region Sunday afternoon.