SAN FRANCISCO: Firefighters yesterday battled to gain control of a fast-moving wildfire raging on the edge of Yosemite National Park that is threatening power and water supplies to San Francisco about 322km to the west.
The so-called Rim Fire, which had grown to just over 125,000 acres as of early yesterday, remained largely unchecked with extreme terrain hampering efforts at containment.
“We are making progress but unfortunately the steep terrain definitely has posed a major challenge,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“Today we’re continuing to see warm weather that could allow this fire to continue to grow very rapidly as it has over the last several days,” Berlant said.
California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday declared a state of emergency, warning that the fire had damaged the electrical infrastructure serving the city, and forced the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to shut down power lines.
There have been no reports of blackouts in San Francisco.
Ashley Taylor, a spokeswoman for the US Forest Service, said high humidity and firefighting efforts through the night had helped some.
“Firefighters are still working with the same difficult situation, and they’re really taking every opportunity they can to take hold of this fire,” Taylor said. “They’re working very hard to take this down.”
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 affects the reservoir.
On Friday, the fire was about 6.4km west of the reservoir and some 32km from Yosemite Valley, the park’s main tourist centre. It was consuming brush, oaks and pine and was about 5 percent contained as of late Friday.
The fire had blackened about 11,000 acres in the northwestern corner of Yosemite as of Friday afternoon. Berlant said about 2,700 firefighters were expected to be on the front lines on Saturday to fight the fire, which started on Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest.
Yosemite, one of the nation’s major tourist destinations, attracted nearly 4 million visitors last year. Reuters