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Latest California fire gains strength, threatens hundreds of homes

Fire officials in California are asking the public to work with them as they face one of the most significant fire seasons they've seen in many years.

In what is feared to be the worst wildfire season in a century, a central California blaze is gathering strength from dry air and wind gusts to threaten hundreds of homes.

The Carstens Fire, which began Sunday afternoon, continues to burn through brush and timber in the Sierra Nevada foothills southwest of Yosemite National Park, according to Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

“This fire is continuing to grow and as it threatens more homes, it’s required us to call in additional resources and firefighters in,” he said.

The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning over the weekend for parts of California. In response, CAL FIRE added additional firefighters and equipment to their team.

“While we are hoping we can make it through the next couple of days with minimal fire activity, we are prepared to respond if Mother Nature doesn’t agree,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director, in a news release.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 2,200 firefighters were battling the blaze along with 143 engines, several helicopters and various other crews.

Little progress has been made in containing the fire, as crews have been unable to contain more than 15 percent of it since Sunday. More than 1,600 acres have burned.

A firefighter was injured Monday, but the extent of his injuries is still unknown. Berlant said sprained ankles and heat exhaustion are common when fighting fires like this one.

More than 800 homes in counties near Midpines are threatened by the blaze and hundreds have been evacuated, Berlant said. While the fire is near Yosemite National Park, Berlant said he thinks the main threat is to homes.

Currently, Highway 140, right near Yosemite, is open, but that could change.

Officials say this could be the worst year for fires. Typically, there are about 1,100 wildfires with 8,000 acres burned by June. This year, CAL FIRE has responded to more than 2,100 wildfires with more than 50,000 acres burned.

When asked about a timetable for the Carstens Fire, Berlant said he was unsure because of the dry weather and gusty winds.

“That’s what’s fanning the fire,” he said. “At this point, it’s too early to tell when it will be over.”