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

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.