Remote Yosemite fire suddenly takes off

Hikers in Yosemite National Park are being evacuated by helicopter after a wildfire that was allowed to burn in a remote area suddenly took off Sunday afternoon.

Tim Ludington of the National Park Service said the Meadow fire that was started by lightning in mid-July adjacent to Mt. Starr King grew with strong winds and hot temperatures, creating a spot fire.

The fire has since dropped into Little Yosemite Valley and crossed the Merced River. About 400 acres have burned on both sides of the valley.

Gary Wuchner, also of the National Park Service, said evacuations are underway for hikers near the Sunrise Trail, where the fire is burning behind Clouds Rest.

He said four Type 1 helicopters carrying 1,000 gallons of water, three Type 2 helicopters carrying 200-gallon buckets and one air tanker carrying at least 1,000 gallons of fire retardant are attacking the fire.

Wuchner said six hotshot crews of 20 people each are expected to arrive Sunday evening along with Yosemite fire crews. He said it takes firefighters about a day to hike into the remote area.

Ludington said the fire is expected to keep growing.

"We just got unbelievable crazy winds and unexpected hot conditions," he said. "The fire behavior totally changed. There is a huge plume."

While the fire was originally allowed to burn for forest restoration and other objectives, firefighters are now working to fully suppress the flames. Wuchner said helicopter crews noticed the spot fire Sunday morning.

Wuchner said the entire backcountry trail system has been closed. He was unsure how many hikers must be evacuated.