(Photo: Inciweb/Google Maps Screen Shot)
The Rim Fire has grown to 164 sq miles (424 sq km) by Friday morning and has now burned into Yosemite National Park, authorities have reported. The huge California Yosemite wildfire has forced streams of tourists to free the area during what should the peak season at the park, and thousands of homes are also under threat.
More than 2,000 firefighters are currently joining together in efforts to tackle the enormous blaze, but the fire remains just 2 percent contained, according to reports.
California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, with the blaze being described as a "monster."
The Rim fire has burned across a vast area in quick speed, and has reached Yosemite's backcountry at Lake Eleanor, which is accessible by hiking trails, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb has said, according to The Associated Press.
Cobb has explained that the area currently affected by the fire is not actually one of the often visited parks of the park, but nevertheless she described it as "very beautiful."
She also confirmed that at present the Yosemite wildfire is about 20 miles away from the main tourist area at Yosemite National Park.
Fire crews have found it desperately difficult to keep any kind of control of the fire, and it has spread enormously on Thursday and Friday, destroying several homes and numerous other outbuildings, according to AP.
The Yosemite National Park still technically remains open, but the fire has forced the closure of a four mile area of State Route 120 – on the west side which is one of the three main entrances to the national park.
The blaze is in fact centered on Stanislaus National Forest, west of Yosemite. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service has said 4,500 homes, hotels, businesses and several campsites are under threat as of Friday, up from 2,500 on Thursday.
Lee Bentley of the U.S. Forest Service told CBS News: "We've got a monster on our hands. This fire is making its own weather. It's going every which direction. This is one of the worst I've ever been on. I've been doing it for quite a few years."
Meanwhile, the Tuolomne County Sheriff's department has issued an evacuation order Friday afternoon for the City of Tuolumne and Ponderosa Hills on the west side of the Rim Fire.
CalFire says the fire is growing in all directions, though the most damage has been done on the northern and eastern flanks. "The last couple of days, right around the mid-afternoon hour is when we're really seeing the most activity," says CalFire's Daniel Berlant. "An inversion layer sits over the fire in the morning starts to lift. The fire really gets enough heat that it generated and it just takes off."
Here is a video news report update on the Rim Fire entering Yosemite National Park: