Fire in Yosemite among state’s worst

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GROVELAND, Calif. — The Rim fire continued to grow overnight, burning 133,000 acres in and around Yosemite National Park, officials said Sunday.

The blaze — the 15th largest in California history — has burned 210 square miles and is now 7% contained, according to Cal Fire.

Officials said they continued to deal with dry conditions and winds that have helped the fire spread so quickly.

Getting to the fire has proven difficult for firefighters.

“Direct attack is being used in some areas of the fire and more will be utilized as firefighters gain safe access,” according to Inciweb, a fire Web service. “In other areas of the fire where extremely steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain exists, fire crews are using a tactic called indirect attack, which creates control lines away from the fire’s active edge.”

The fast-moving blaze marched powerfully through pristine wilderness all of last week, doubling in size since Thursday, forcing evacuations, shutting down the main highway to the famed national park and damaging the Hetch Hetchy reservoir’s water and power system.

More than 2,600 firefighters battled the blaze Saturday. Although they were assisted by trench-digging bulldozers and water-dropping aircraft, their efforts had little effect. The Rim fire, which began eight days ago in a remote canyon of the Stanislaus National Forest, was just 5% contained.

“This fire is burning unlike anything we’ve seen in this area historically,” said Ashley Taylor, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

More than 1,800 firefighters were sent to Tuolumne City at the northwestern edge of the fire to protect the community’s 1,600 homes. “Our priority is Tuolumne right now. It’s in the line of fire,” said another fire official.

Aside from the hot, dry weather and the rugged and hard-to-reach terrain, another difficulty was the blaze’s tendency to burn the tops of trees, creating a “crown fire” with long, intense flames that skip across forested land faster than a wildfire that creeps along near the ground.

The blaze continued to threaten small communities throughout the area, some of which had been abandoned by residents, tourists and business owners who fled after looking skyward and seeing gray plumes of smoke or columns of flame rising from nearby mountain ranges. Tuolumne City and Ponderosa Hills, home to about 2,000 people, were under voluntary evacuation orders. Parts of Groveland were evacuated Friday.


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