Thousands of firefighters on Monday entered a tenth day of trying to slow the pace of the massive Rim fire as it spread across dry, rugged terrain near Yosemite, threatening thousands of homes.
Over the weekend near Tuolumne City, firefighters dug trenches, cleared brush, laid heavy water hoses and started backfires to try to divert the blaze around the town, as they had earlier in Groveland. A base camp in the area could see 2,500 firefighters by Tuesday if the winds continue to push from the southwest, a fire official said.
Nine structures have been destroyed so far, and thousands more are threatened, including 1,600 homes in Tuolumne City at the northwestern edge of the fire, officials said.
“Everybody in this town has a right to feel nervous. This fire could always turn, depending on which way the wind blows,” said Lee Bentley, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service.
Tuolumne City and Ponderosa Hills, home to about 2,000 people, were under voluntary evacuation orders. Parts of Groveland were evacuated Friday.
The north edge of the fire, which started Aug. 17 and has burned about 134,000 acres, has pushed into the Emigrant Wilderness Area and Yosemite National Park. It’s the one side of the fire with a natural last stand: If not stopped sooner the blaze will eventually run into granite walls that have snuffed out fires in this region for centuries.
The Rim fire – now one of the largest in California’s history — presents a range of challenges: steep slopes, dry fuel, rugged terrain and entire communities possibly in harm’s way.
The fire was just 7% contained as of Sunday night.
The fire has destroyed nine structures and is threatening thousands more.
The entrance to Yosemite National Park from Highway 120, the Hodgdon Meadow campground and the Hetch Hetchy backpackers’ campground remained closed Sunday.
Around 200 firefighters from San Diego County were assigned to the Rim Fire and were expected to stay until it was fully contained, CalFire spokesman Nick Schuler said.