NPS crews dig hand line along a sprinkler hose as part of a multi-pronged approach to protecting the Giant Sequoias against the Rim fire. A wildfire raging on the northern tip of California’s Yosemite National Park threatens a world-famous site of natural beauty and the reservoir that provides San Francisco with drinking water.
SAN FRANCISCO: One of largest fires in recent California history continued to roar inside Yosemite National Park and threatened facilities that supply water and power to the city of San Francisco.
As of yesterday morning, hand crews backed by bulldozers and helicopters dropped water and flame retardant, containing around 15 percent of the blaze’s perimeter, more than double Sunday’s figure. It is one of the 20 largest wildfires in California history, according to Cal Fire.
Fire managers reported making headway in their 9-day-old battle to curtail flames roaring through dry brush and forests along the northwestern edge of Yosemite National Park, putting utilities that serve the city of San Francisco in danger.
The so-called Rim Fire has charred nearly 150,000 acres or 234 square miles — the size of the city of Chicago — since it erupted on August 17, most of that in the Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite. It has forced the closure of the main park entrance road used by visitors from the San Francisco Bay area.
By Sunday afternoon, some 15,000 acres within Yosemite had burned, prompting the evacuation of 74 campsites in the White Wolf area of the park, officials said.
The blaze also crept to within two miles of a key reservoir, the Hetch Hetchy, which is the source of 85 percent of San Francisco’s water supply, and authorities said they were concerned about ash contamination from the fire.
Hydropower facilities in the area that provide electricity to San Francisco, about 200 miles (320 km) to the west, also have been threatened.
Two of three power stations that account for all of the city’s municipal electricity — for public hospitals, transit, City Hall and airport — have been shut down since last Monday. But the city has so far made up for the loss by purchasing supplemental power from the open market and using some of its reserves.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Francisco on Friday due to threats to the city’s water supply. He planned to visit the fire zone on Monday to meet with fire managers and firefighters.
The blaze has destroyed about a dozen homes and 1,000 outbuildings, and some 4,500 additional dwellings remained threatened. Residents in the tiny town of Tuolumne on the western edge of the park were evacuated, but evacuation orders have been lifted for the communities of Pine Mountain Lake and Buck Meadows.