Cooler weather helps slow spread of Yosemite National Park fire

Cooler weather on Monday slowed the spread of a wildfire that forced the helicopter evacuation of dozens of people from the famous Half Dome rock in Yosemite National Park.

"We were pleasantly surprised with high humidity and scattered showers throughout the morning," said Kari Cobb, a park ranger. "So anytime you have weather like that it's going to help suppress fire activity."

The fire, which had burned about 4 square miles of timberland, wasn't threatening any buildings. The park remained open, but some campsites were closed.

About 120 firefighters and 11 aircraft fought the blaze, which may have erupted from embers of a fire sparked by lightning several weeks ago, officials said.

Firefighters had monitored and controlled that fire before winds and temperatures increased on Sunday.

On Sunday, 100 people were evacuated from Little Yosemite Valley, and 80 to 85 were removed by helicopter from the top of 5,000-foot Half Dome.

Rachael Kirk, 26, of Oakland, said she and two friends had reached an outcropping about 400 feet below the summit when they saw the fire explode out of control.

From the outcropping, called the subdome, hikers must climb a board-and-cable stairway up the rock face to reach the top.

Kirk, who was hiking to Half Dome for the first time, said she didn't want to go up the cables, but a park employee insisted.

"He said there was no way to land the helicopter except on top of Half Dome," Kirk said. "That was the moment everyone felt scared."

"One woman freaked out," she said. "They gave her a makeshift harness and helped her out on the cable."

Kirk said the climb and the airlift weren't something she wanted to repeat.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I don't think I'll do it again," Kirk said.