What is the largest fire to date in the U.S. this year, the Rim Fire, burns in the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County.
VIDEO: Time lapse video captures size, spread of the Rim Fire
Dry conditions, hard-to-access steep ridges and deep canyons, wind and low humidity have challenged crews battling the fire. Some 235,841 acres, which equates to 369 square miles, have burned. That is more than three and half times the size of Sacramento.
PHOTOS: Best images of the Rim Fire
Full containment is estimated by September 20, 2013, more than a month after the fire's start. Two and a half weeks after the first report of flames in a ridge three miles east of Groveland near Highway 120, fire officials said containment was at 75 percent.
PHOTOS: View inside the Rim Fire
Thirty-one residences and 80 outbuildings have been lost to the fire, including the Berkeley Family Camp. More than 4,500 structures remained threatened.
There is a mandatory evacuation order for residences north of Old Yosemite Road and Highway 120 at the western boundary of Yosemite National Park west to Buck Meadows. Flames have encroached into Yosemite's backcountry but the park remains open.
The fire is under the unified command of the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire. Seventy-nine helicopters, and C-130s and DC-10s fight the fire from the air. Four hundred sixty-fire engines, 15 bulldozers and 60 water tenders have been deployed. More than 3,750 fire personnel are assigned.
VIDEO: Rare military cockpit video shows Rim Fire aerial battle
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
(Smoke from wildfires in California as seen from the International Space Station, Aug. 26, 2013, photo courtesy NASA astronaut Nyberg and The Associated Press)
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the first reported sighting of the fire in the Tuolumne River Canyon south of Highway 120 was made about 3:15 p.m., Saturday, August 17, 2013, from the Rim of the World lookout in the Stanislaus National Forest. Hence the name, Rim Fire.
It was not clear what response was made. USFS did not list the Rim Fire on its incident page until Monday, August 19, 2013, when the first evacuation order came down for the Buck Meadows community along Highway 120. Cherry Lake at Highway 120 was also closed and 120 was off limits between Smith Station east to Yosemite National Park. By Monday night, 4,400 acres were blackened and flames were moving eastward.
By the next morning, Tuesday, August 20, flames had chewed up 10,170 acres and 2,500 structures were under fire threat. Some 455 fire personnel had been assigned with another 256 joining the fire flanks that night. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) joined the battle.
Four days into the incident, flames had crossed the Tuolumne and Clavey rivers to the northwest but were being held in check on the west at Ferretti Road and generally to the south fork of the Tuolumne River.
By August 29, the Rim Fire spread to 192,737 acres, or 301 square miles.
Exactly two weeks after the fire ignited, the fire reached more than 219,000 acres.
There is a mandatory evacuation order for residences north of Old Yosemite Road.(5) and Highway 120 at the western boundary of Yosemite National Park west to Buck Meadows. North of Ferretti Road to Elderberry Road remains under an evacuation order.
The following areas in Tuolumne County are currently under evacuation advisories issued by the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office: Mi-Wok Village to Pinecrest along Highway 108; Ponderosa Hills, Evergreen Lodge, San Jose Family Camp, Yosemite Riverside Inn, Spinning Wheel, Rainbow Pool, Buck Meadows, Yosemite Vista Estates, Ferretti Road to Clements Road, Berkeley Family Camp, Harden Flat, Naco West, Yosemite Lakes, Pine Mt. Lake, and Packerd Canyon.
A shelter for displaced residents at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora was open for two weeks. It closed September 3.
By September 3, all evacuation warnings and advisories from the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office had been lifted, including from Ponderosa Hills and areas east on the south side of Highway 108 up to Pinecrest.
- Tuolumne County Schools District directed its 22 schools closed Monday, August 26, through Friday, August 30, because of the unhealthy air.
- The Groveland Ranger District and the Mi-Wok Ranger District east of Highway 108.
- Highway 120 in and out of Yosemite National Park west to Crane Flat Campground.
- Graham Ranch Road, Smith Station at Highway 120, Cherry Lake at Highway 120 and Evergreen Road.
State of emergency
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Tuolumne County on August 23. The declaration frees up funds and firefighting resources for the Rim Fire.
Brown also declared a state of emergency for the city and county of San Francisco because of the fire threat to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite. The reservoir, which supplies the San Francisco-area with 85 percent of its water, is not threatened but two of its three hydroelectric power stations were shut down.
Due to smoke and particulate matter in the air from the fire, Tuolumne County air pollution and health officials recommend residents limit outdoor activity when visibility in their area is less than five miles.
Also of concern, the giant sequoias in the Tuolumne and Merced groves. Fire officials say the Rim Fire is burning fast, high and unusually hot due to the dry conditions. Crews are working to keep flames from reaching the sequoias' upper branches and canopies which could be disasterous.
As of August 27, 10 days after the Rim Fire was first reported, state officials put the tab to fight the fire thus far at $27.2 million.
United States Forest Service; California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; Southern California Public Radio; Office of the Governor, State of California; USA Today