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FEMA approves aid for wildfires in Yosemite and Central California

FEMA approves grants to help cover costs of fighting two California wildfires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to help cover California's costs fighting a fire burning toward Yosemite National Park and another burning in the Central Valley.

The FEMA grants can help with up to 75% of the state’s costs for fighting the fast-spreading Junction fire in Oakhurst south of Yosemite and the Way fire in Kern County.

The two blazes are spreading quickly across parched mountain ridges and hillsides, triggering more than 13,000 evacuation orders, county and state officials said.

The Junction fire has burned about 1,200 acres and is 0% contained, prompting local school officials to close five campuses Tuesday. Spot fires up to a half mile ahead of the main blaze have hampered firefighters’ efforts to gain the upper hand, but lighter wind and increased humidity will hopefully help, according to the California Department Forestry and Fire Protection.

In the meantime, California 41 leading in and out of Yosemite National Forest remains closed and authorities have sent out an additional 2,500 phone calls warning residents they may have to leave if the fire spreads in their direction.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for the following areas:

  • Road 620 between California 41 and Lone Oak Lane
  • Jean Road East, Jean Road West, Scott Road and Taylor Mountain
  • All residences and businesses between Highway 41 North from Road 426 to Road 620
  • Sky Ranch Road, and the community of Cedar Valley  

In Kern County, meanwhile, the Way fire had burned through buildings and about 3,000 acres after igniting Monday afternoon in Wofford Heights north of California 155. Crews are trying to control the blaze as it crawls through steep terrain and bone-dry vegetation. Evacuation orders were issued Monday for residents among half a dozen Wofford Heights neighborhoods.

And in the hills above Azusa, the Tecolote fire in the Angeles National Forest was 60% contained Monday after burning approximately 274 acres, the U.S. Forest Service reported.

The blaze was burning in steep, rugged terrain away from homes, said fire officials. California 39 at East Fork was open only to residents.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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