The huge wildfire that has been burning into Yosemite National Park for the last two weeks may have been started by an illegal marijuana growing operation, a local fire official said.
Six days after the Rim fire broke out in the middle of the Northern California forest, Twain Harte Fire and Rescue Chief Todd McNeal told a community meeting the blaze was definitely human-caused.
In his Aug. 23 talk, a video of which has been posted on YouTube, McNeal said that the fire started in a section of the Stanislaus National Forest inaccessible by foot or vehicle and that it was “highly suspected” that an illegal marijuana growing operation that sparked the blaze.
U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials will say only that the cause of the Rim fire is under investigation.
The blaze, the fourth-largest fire in California’s history, has burned 235,841 acres, or 368 square miles. About one-quarter of the burned area is in Yosemite National Park.
The fire has destroyed 111 structures, 11 of them residential, and is expected to be contained by Sept. 20, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. No structures inside the national park have been lost, officials said.
The blaze was listed as 75% contained Tuesday morning.