By Victoria Cavaliere
(Reuters) - Firefighters from across California were sent to battle an out-of-control wildfire on Tuesday near Yosemite National Park and authorities ordered the evacuation of 13,000 homes and businesses, officials said.
Gusty winds fanned the Junction Fire, which erupted on Monday, and it spread rapidly through parched forest in the foothills of Yosemite, one of the most visited U.S. national parks, fire officials said.
The blaze has destroyed eight structures and is threatening 500 others, including hotels, restaurants and homes near the central California town of Oakhurst, said Dennis Mathisen, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
"The fire is near a southern gateway for the park and we do have a lot of tourist activity there. And Oakhurst is a populated, booming area so we are working hard to minimize any impact to residents and visitors," Mathisen said.
Mandatory evacuation orders have gone out to 13,000 phone numbers for homes and businesses and an additional 2,500 numbers were advised to evacuate, he said.
Firefighters from across the state, which is enduring an aggressive wildfire season after years of severe drought, were headed to Madera County to battle the 1,200-acre blaze. It was zero percent contained on Tuesday, officials said.
Authorities have closed California 41, the main route into the park from the south, and are urging people to use caution as winds drive the blaze toward Bass Lake, a popular tourist resort.
The Junction Fire is one of about 20 wildfires burning across California, Oregon and Washington state, where exceedingly dry conditions, summer heat and little rain have made for one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.
In Oregon, 2,000 firefighters battling the state's five major wildfires reported steady progress on Tuesday, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Cooler temperatures and rain last week helped containment, though high winds forecast for later this week could spark new flames, officials said.
The Bald Sisters Fire in east-central Oregon is at zero percent containment, and fire crews are cutting down trees and foliage in an effort to form a perimeter, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group said on Tuesday.
The so-called South Fork Complex fire is 72 percent contained, though residents of some nearby rural areas have been told to stand by for possible evacuations.
In eastern Washington, two large wildfires were coming under control, state fire officials said.
The 12,667-acre Snag Canyon Fire, burning about 10 miles north of the city of Ellensburg, has not shown any new growth in the past week, Kittitas County officials said. Another blaze to the west, the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire, was 77 percent contained, officials said.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle and Courtney Sherwood in Portland; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)