America Is Burning: Forest Fire Forces Half Dome Evacuation

The Meadow Fire raged east of the Half Dome on Sunday, September 8, 2014.
The Meadow Fire raged east of the Half Dome on Sunday, September 8, 2014. Courtesy Yosemite National Park

A new fire in Yosemite National Park forced the closure of Half Dome on Sunday. Search and rescue helicoptors removed 85 climbers and hikers from the area. The blaze, named The Meadow Fire by the park, spread to nearly 2,600 acres by Monday morning in an area east of the rock formation called the Little Yosemite Valley. The National Park Service hasn't confirmed the initial cause of the fire, but it may have started from a nearby fire that had been slowly burning since July.

The South Central Sierra Interagency Management Team, the group charged with responding to the fire, has dispatched seven helicopters, three air tankers, six hotshot squads, and more than 100 firefighters. High temperatures and strong winds bolstered the fire, which is also aided by an abundance of dry grass and brush for fuel. The fire, one of four in the park currently, comes on the heels of July's El Portal and Dark Hole fires, which burned through a combined 5,700 acres.

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While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, thanks to a years-long drought, rising temperatures, and development, the American west has become a tinderbox that is increasingly at risk of long-term, and continually more devastating wildfires. In 2013, California's Rim Fire burned into Yosemite, destroying 257,000 acres of some of the state's most pristine wilderness. This year, 2.8 million acres have already been destroyed across the country as the traditional September-December wildfire season begins.