Authorities ordered the evacuation of the 400 residents of Big Creek on Thursday afternoon as a precaution against a forest fire started when a squirrel shorted out an electrical conductor.
Erratic winds changed a voluntary evacuation of the old utility community 50 miles east of Fresno to a mandatory evacuation, said Phil Strand, a Sierra National Forest information officer.
The fire was about one mile east of Big Creek and two miles west of Huntington Lake, a popular high country resort where voluntary evacuations of campgrounds began Wednesday. One mandatory campground evacuation was ordered Thursday.
Forest spokeswoman Susan Exline said that a squirrel caused the electrical short at a Southern California Edison Co. substation, and the short ignited brush about noon Wednesday.
The fire had blackened 2,000 acres by late Thursday afternoon with no containment in sight.
Firefighters tried to put a line around the southeast corner of the fire to protect Big Creek. To spread to the town, the fire would have to jump a creek of the same name, said Robin Smith, a forest information officer.
"If the fire continues the way it's going, it could get enough momentum to reach Big Creek," Smith said.