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Yosemite Evacuations Complete As Wildfire Rages Near Half Dome

By Jason Wells, Los Angeles Times

The wilderness near Yosemite National Park’s iconic Half Dome has been completely evacuated as a wind-driven wildfire continued to spread through the area Tuesday, officials said.

The Meadow fire, last measured at nearly 2,600 acres, forced authorities to evacuate dozens of hikers by helicopter after flames cut off their exit. Approximately 100 people were evacuated from Little Yosemite Valley.

Park officials said they did not anticipate any more evacuations as 11 water-dropping aircraft continued to hit the fire from above. Hot-shot crews had also joined more than 120 firefighters at the fire’s perimeter, officials said.

Trails near Half Dome, Little Yosemite Valley, Merced Lake, the Sunrise High Sierra Camps, Clouds Rest, and Echo Valley remained closed.

The fire, believed to have been started by one of hundreds of lightning strikes last month, had been smoldering for 49 days at just under 20 acres.

Park officials had been letting it burn to restore the area’s natural fire patterns. Given its high elevation (8,000 feet) and slow pace, there was no threat to public safety, officials said.

But when winds pushed the flames into bone-dry brush near hiking trails on Sunday, the fire exploded and ended up cutting off dozens of mountain climbers and hikers from park exits, prompting the evacuations from Half Dome.

Rachael Kirk, 26, of Oakland, Calif., told Fox News that she and two friends were about 400 feet below the summit when the fire started to roar behind them. She said a park employee insisted they climb the board-and-cable stairway up to the summit — the only place the helicopter could land.

“That was the moment everyone felt scared,” she said.

Tim Ludington, a park spokesman, told The L.A. Times that the decision to evacuate the hikers by air was the safest option.

“The fire was getting very close to the trail to Half Dome and we didn’t want to take the chance on people having to hike through the fire to get back,” he said.

A burst of cooler of temperatures and moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Norbert were expected to provide some relief to firefighters as the weather system moved across the state.

No fire containment figure was immediately available.

AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov

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Ruptured Pipe Leaves 10,000 Gallons Of Oil On L.A. Streets

By Jason Wells, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — A 10,000-gallon crude-oil spill in Los Angeles early Thursday was expected to take 24 hours to fully clean up, officials said.

Firefighters responding to the spill shortly after 1 a.m. the Atwater Village section of the city were able to hem in much of the oil by using loads of sand from a nearby cement company to build a dam-like berm, creating a sort of “lagoon” that tanker trucks were able to sip from using their vacuum lines.

Those trucks were able to provide more accurate readings, which firefighters used to downgrade the size of the spill after initially estimating its size at 50,000 gallons.

The burst pipe had sent a geyser 20 to 50 feet in the air, blasting the adjacent Gentlemen’s Club, which had to evacuate, Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jamie Moore said. Some 10 vehicles were also stuck in the club’s lot due to the oil, he added.

Two people at a nearby medical center who complained of nausea, possibly due to the oil, were transported to a local hospital, Moore said.

By the time crews were able to shut off the pipeline remotely, the spill had created pools of oil, some about 40 feet wide and knee-deep, in the largely industrial area, the Fire Department reported.

“It looked like a lake,” Moore said.

Most of the oil was vacuumed up by 6 a.m., but more work will be needed to fully clean the spill, he added.

He said cleanup crews would use diaper-like sponges to sop up what oil could not be vacuumed up by the tanker trucks. After that, he said, high-pressure hoses blasting a soap solution will be used to break up the remaining oil.

The entire process will take up to 24 hours, Moore said.

The Gentlemen’s Club will probably have to undergo extensive cleanup after oil spewed against its roof and a side wall, Moore said. Four other businesses near the ruptured line were affected by street closures, but did not suffer significant damage, officials said.

The pipeline transports oil from Bakersfield, Calif., to Texas. It was not immediately clear what caused the rupture.

©afp.com / Kevork Djansezian