An out-of-control wildfire leapt across the boundaries of Yosemite National Park on Friday as more than 2,100 fire personnel worked to contain the Northern California blaze, the latest of the major wildfires to sweep the country in recent weeks.
The Rim Fire had burned more than 125,620 acres by Friday night, after having nearly doubled in size overnight. The fire has destroyed 16 structures and caused one injury as it burned in Stanislaus National Forest, according to an incident report. More than 2,100 responders were battling the blaze, which was just 2 percent contained.
On Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in San Francisco, some 150 miles away from the blaze, because the raging inferno threatened the city's power infrastructure, NBC Bay Area reported. Two of three hydroelectric plants in the area had to be shut down because of the fire.
Officials issued new voluntary evacuation orders for the towns of Tuolumne City and Ponderosa Hills, both about 5 miles from the fire line, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jerry Snyder said. A mandatory evacuation order remained in effect for part of Pine Mountain Lake, a summer gated community a few miles from the fire.
Although Pine Mountain Lake and other communities are threatened, within Yosemite the blaze is burning in a remote area and is not threatening the famed Yosemite Valley, the Forest Service said, according to NBC Bay Area.
The fire licked the western boundaries of Yosemite National Park on Thursday and swept away gains firefighters had made to bring the fire to 5 percent containment Wednesday.
Brown declared an emergency in Tuolumne County on Thursday, as costs fighting the fire hit $5.4 million. The rugged terrain consumed by the fire made it difficult for firefighters to drag in their gear, a Forest Service spokesman said.
"The terrain is so difficult that you can't go into direct attack," Forest Service spokesman Trevor Augustino said, according to Reuters.
Crews facing the sprawling flames faced smoke exposure and the potential for injury as the fire skipped across the steep territory, according to an incident report.
"The biggest challenge is the fire itself," Lee Bentley, a spokesperson with the forest service, told NBC Bay Area. "It’s just too doggone dangerous."
The quick-spreading fire is the fourth-largest in the nation, National Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Robyn Broyles told Reuters, one of 50 large blazes burning in the Western states. The Rim Fire has grown faster than any other, she said.
Among the buildings destroyed were two homes, Reuters reported. Two evacuation centers have been set up, Augustino told Reuters, as residents in about 2,500 homes had been advised to evacuate.
Max Whittaker / Reuters
Firefighter Dave Beck rakes embers away from a road Thursday while fighting the Rim Fire near Buck Meadows, Calif.
"There are a lot of little pockets of residences throughout this area," Augustino said, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the massive Beaver Creek Fire in Idaho was nearly contained, but not before it drove tourists from the ski retreat town of Sun Valley, the AP reported.
"We have a lot of customers who can go anywhere they want to," said Todd Van Bramer, a resident of nearby Ketchum, according to the AP. "They don't have to come to Idaho if it's burning. They can go to Montana, Colorado or Wyoming at the drop of a hat."
More than $1 billion has been spent overall this year fighting wildfires in Oregon, Montana, and Idaho, the Associated Press reported.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published August 23 2013, 6:06 AM