Massive California fire sends smoke all the way to Idaho while choking Yosemite and Lake Tahoe

The aggressive blaze has forced more than 4,000 residents to flee their homes. (July 20, 2017)


Churning columns of smoke from a massive Central Valley fire are creating a haunting landscape from Yosemite National Park to Lake Tahoe.

The smoke plume extends north from Mariposa County into the Sierra and neighboring Nevada, according to the National Weather Service. It has traveled as far as Idaho, some 500 miles away.

The Detwiler fire, which has forced more than 4,000 residents to flee, swelled to more than 70,000 acres Thursday and was 10% contained, according to Cal Fire. Officials said the fire was burning in an area littered with dead trees, killed by bark beetles and years of drought.

Update: After an anxious four-day wait, wildfire evacuees return to Mariposa »

The blaze has destroyed 99 structures, 50 of which were homes, according to Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean. Flames damaged an additional 11 houses, and about 1,500 structures were threatened. Evacuation orders were still in effect for Mariposa and the town of Coulterville.

More than 3,700 firefighters tackled 2- to 4-foot flames and observed some flares up to 25 feet high, authorities said.

Lake Tahoe

Smoke from the fire has reduced visibility and caused some dramatic sunsets that have been posted on social media. Residents and officials also said it’s significant reduced air quality during the summer tourist season

Yosemite National Park

The fire is burning on the western edge of Yosemite, and smoke is choking the surrounding valley.

“It’s been putting off quite a bit of smoke; there’s a lot of stuff burning,” said James Andersen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, Calif.

“It was very, very tiny pieces of ash,” photographer Paul Adams said. “I want to call it almost like hair dandruff. Then, when I went to Mariposa, the ash that was falling was about the size of a snowflake, more pronounced.”

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9:15 p.m.: Updated with air quality map.