Hundreds evacuated from California wildfire

A wildfire burning almost completely out of control outside the famed Yosemite National Park in California has charred more than 42 square miles and destroyed 12 homes.

A US wildfire burning almost completely out of control outside the famed Yosemite National Park in California has charred more than 42 square miles and destroyed 12 homes.

The blaze, marching through steep, dry terrain, has forced the evacuation of about 300 homes in the nearby towns of Midpines and Coulterville and is threatening about 2,000 others.

The fire was 10% contained yesterday as it burned about 12 miles west of the park, which remained open.

Highway 140, one of three main roads leading into Yosemite from the west, was closed for part of the day to allow air tankers to drop fire retardant on the road.

"This is some of the most difficult territory you can find in California for fighting fires," said Mikel Martin, chief of the Madera-Mariposa Unit. "That country is so steep you could almost say it's straight up and straight down."

A manager at the Yosemite Bug, a hostel in Midpines popular with European backpackers, said most guests had left over the weekend. But a few brave travellers stayed on to try to spot Yosemite Valley's celebrated granite peaks through the smoke.

"Some of them just don't care, they just want to see the beauties of Yosemite," manager Carrie Kidwell said. "We had guests in here this morning going to the park, and I advised them to take their things with them because we don't know which way the wind's going to shift between now and when they get back."

At the peak of summer, as many as 4,000 visitors a day stream into the park. Officials did not expect the fire would keep many away.

California has been dogged by wildfire since last month, and hot, dry conditions have turned flare-ups into prolonged firefights. While many earlier blazes were ignited by a massive lightning storm, the fire outside Yosemite was sparked by a target shooter.

There are currently 3,000 firefighters on the scene, some from as far away as Greece.

In south-central Montana, a fast-moving wildfire near the Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort grew to 5,800 acres yesterday. Five summer cabins and an outbuilding have been destroyed, and 80 to 100 homes were evacuated as a precaution.

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