Yosemite wildfire grows, fueling dangerous winds

A sign on the edge of Yosemite National Park, California, is surrounded by a burn from the Rim Fire, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
A sign on the edge of Yosemite National Park, California, is surrounded by a burn from the Rim Fire, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

A colossal wildfire raging on the edge of Yosemite National Park has produced dangerous weather patterns by fueling thunderous pyrocumulus clouds that can alter the wind direction rapidly, potentially trapping firefighters, forest officials said on Sunday.

The so-called Rim Fire grew to 134,000 acres by early Sunday morning, up 9,000 acres from the day before, with smoke columns rising more than 30,000 feet, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Dick Fleishman.

“That’s a real watch-out situation for our firefighters when they see that kind of activity, they know that the wind could actually move that fire right back on them,” Fleishman said. “That’s been happening every afternoon.”

The fire was threatening power and water supplies to San Francisco, about 200 miles to the west, and scorched part of Yosemite, a park known for its waterfalls, giant sequoia groves and other scenic wonders.

Started on August 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest, the fire remained largely unchecked with extreme terrain and increased wind hampering efforts at containment, Yosemite National Park spokesman Tom Medema said. Seven percent of the wildfire is now contained, he said.

The fire blackened just over 12,000 acres in the northwest corner of Yosemite by Sunday, up marginally from the day before, consuming brush, oaks and pines and threatened some giant sequoia trees in the park, Medema said.

Officials have closed parts of the park’s northwestern edge throughout the week, including the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir area, Lake Eleanor, Lake Cherry and the Tuolumne and Merced giant sequoia groves.

The fire by Sunday burned within 3 miles of the reservoir and was still 20 miles from Yosemite Valley, the park’s main tourist center, Medema said. About 2,700 firefighters were expected to be on the front lines on Sunday to fight the fire.

Officials said they have no plans to shut down the entire park or its top attractions.

California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday declared a state of emergency for San Francisco, saying the fire had damaged the electrical infrastructure serving the city and forced the Public Utilities Commission to shut down power lines.

The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir provides water to 2.6 million customers in the San Francisco area and Brown in his declaration said the city’s water supply could be affected if the blaze harms the reservoir, most likely by contaminating its water with ash.

There was no evidence of ash in the reservoir by Saturday evening, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

San Francisco could draw on water from neighbors if the supply is compromised, he said.

DROUGHT-PARCHED WEST

Yosemite, one of the nation’s major tourist destinations, attracted nearly 4 million visitors last year. The park has been posting updates and alerts on its website.

The blaze in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains is now the fastest-moving of 50 large wildfires raging across the drought-parched U.S. West. The blazes have strained resources and prompted fire managers to open talks with Pentagon commanders and Canadian officials about possible reinforcements.

A 111,000-acre fire near the resort town of Sun Valley in central Idaho was 82 percent contained on Sunday as the number of firefighters assigned to the blaze was reduced to several hundred from a high of 1,800, officials said.

At its height a week ago, the blaze forced the evacuation of 2,250 homes in upscale developments in a scenic river valley known for a world-class ski resort and for premier hiking and biking trails that wind through the Sawtooth Mountains.

The Rim Fire had destroyed 11 homes, 12 outbuildings and four commercial properties by Sunday.

Evacuation advisories were lifted for roughly 2,500 residences in two Tuolumne County communities on Saturday, but at least 2,000 households were under evacuation advisories, Fleishman said.

Highway 120, one of four access routes to Yosemite, was temporarily closed. The highway leads to the west side of the 750,000-acre (300,000-hectare) national park.

The 2013 fire season has already drained U.S. Forest Service fire suppression and emergency funds, causing the agency to redirect $600 million meant for other projects like campground and trail maintenance and thinning of trees to reduce wildfire risks, agency spokesman Mike Ferris has said.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Movies

Interview: Robert Rodriguez doesn't mind that Jessica Alba…

In making a Hollywood-friendly adaptation of Frank Miller's gritty "Sin City" graphic novel series, Robert Rodriguez learned that some things have to go — namely…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Aug. 20: 'Extant,' 'Legends'…

See a two hour block of Halle Berry's scifi show, "Extant."

The Word

The Word: Mischa Barton in trouble, not that…

  People are really, really worried about Mischa Barton. Again. The former "O.C." star is reportedly in deep financial trouble and can't seem to get…

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Food

The Chic Wife tells us how to use…

Kris Schoels, aka The Chic Wife, grew up on a farm with peach trees. August is National Peach Month, but Kris Schoels doesn’t need a reason…