Firefighters stand watch on a roof as a wildfire sweeps through the area near Lakeport, Calif., Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Kent Porter /The Press Democrat via AP)

The Latest: Fire in Tuolumne County grows dramatically

August 05, 2018 - 9:30 pm

CLEARLAKE, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the wildfires raging in California (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

The Sacramento Bee reports that a wildfire burning in Tuolumne County in Northern California has grown dramatically and led to more evacuation orders.

The Bee reports that the fire started Wednesday near the east side of Donnell Lake. Strong winds pushed the fire northeast Saturday, and it had grown to about nine square miles as of Sunday afternoon with no containment, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 108 eastbound at Eagle Meadow Road and westbound at Dardanelle Resort on Saturday because of the fast-growing fire, which is burning in steep and rough terrain in the Stanislaus National Forest. The Bee reports that a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the area, including all campgrounds and homes.

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5:15 p.m.

The National Park Service says that parts of Yosemite National Park will remain closed indefinitely because of growing fires in areas near and on the park.

"Park administrators and fire managers have made the decision to extend the current park closures indefinitely. Fire managers are continuously assessing conditions in the area and will work directly with and will immediately advise park managers as conditions change and it becomes safe to reopen," the agency said in a statement.

The park service says the parts of Yosemite that will remain closed include Yosemite Valley, El Portal Road, Wawona Road, Big Oak Flat Road, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Wawona Campground, Crane Flat Campground and Tamarack Campground.

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4:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the wildfires hitting California are "being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized." Trump said the water is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.

The president also called for clearing trees to stop the fires from spreading.

The tweet came a day after Gov. Jerry Brown called on Trump to help the state deal with the deadly and destructive wildfire season.

Brown said he is hopeful Trump will issue a so-called Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for California. The declaration would help fire victims with unemployment assistance, food aid and legal and mental health counseling among other federal programs. The declaration will also make counties and cities eligible for federal financial assistance and help with repairing the billions of dollars of damage done to infrastructure.

More immediately, the declaration will enable federal agencies to help battle the 17 major fires burning throughout the state.

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12:08 p.m.

A utility worker was killed near a Northern California wildfire as crews working in sweltering conditions battled multiple blazes, including twin fires that exploded in size and forced hundreds more to evacuate rural communities, officials said Sunday.

The Pacific Gas and Electric employee was fatally injured in a vehicle-related accident Saturday on the western edge of the Carr Fire in Shasta County, said utility spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin. Jairus Ayeta, who was in his 20s, worked as an apprentice lineman and was part of a PG&E crew working in "dangerous terrain" to restore power, she said.

Ayeta is the seventh person to die in the immense blaze that has been burning for two weeks near Redding, where armies of firefighters and fleets of aircraft continue battling the flames about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Oregon state line. Two firefighters and four residents, including two children, were also killed. The fire was more than 40 percent contained Sunday.

Meanwhile to the south, new evacuations were ordered Saturday evening near twin fires burning in Mendocino and Lake counties across wilderness on both sides of Clear Lake. Dry, hot winds fueled both blazes, which have collectively charred nearly 400 square miles (1,036 square kilometers) of brush and timber. The entire so-called Mendocino Complex Fire is now one of the largest on record in the state, officials said.

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