Yosemite Fire Draws State of Emergency Call in California

August 26, 2013

The fire in California’s Yosemite National Park is threatening an increased number of structures and it

A state of emergency declaration has been issued from Gov. Jerry Brown for the San Francisco area due to the potential effect on its utilities.

Hundreds of firefighters were deployed Sunday to protect Tuolumne City and other communities in the path of the Rim Fire. Eight fire trucks and four bulldozers were deployed near Bunney’s ranch on the west side of Mount Baldy, where two years of drought have created tinder-dry conditions.

The fire continues burning in the remote wilderness area of Yosemite, but officials say it’s edging closer to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of San Francisco’s famously pure drinking water.

Despite ash falling like snowflakes on the reservoir and a thick haze of smoke limiting visibility to 100 feet, the quality of the water piped to the city 150 miles away is still good, say officials with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The city’s hydroelectric power generated by the system has been interrupted by the fire, forcing the utility to spend $600,000 buying power on the open market.

Park employees are continuing their efforts to protect two groves of giant sequoias that are unique the region by cutting brush and setting sprinklers, Medena said.

The fire has consumed more than 209 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at just 7 percent.

Fire lines near Ponderosa Hills and Twain Hart are being cut miles ahead of the blaze in locations where fire officials hope they will help protect the communities should the fire jump containment lines.

The blaze sweeping across steep, rugged river canyons quickly has become one of the biggest in California history, thanks in part to extremely dry conditions caused by a lack of snow and rainfall this year. Investigators are trying to determine how the fire started Aug. 17, days before lightning storms swept through the region and sparked other, smaller blazes.

More than 12 helicopters and a half-dozen fixed wing tankers are dropping water and retardant from the air, and 2,800 firefighters are on the ground.

The U.S. Forest Service says about 4,500 structures are threatened by the Rim Fire, and it’s estimated 23 structures were destroyed, though officials have not determined whether they were homes or rural outbuildings.

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