With the American Fire now contained, firefighting focus has shifted largely to the Rim Fire affecting Yosemite National Park with containment increasing over the holiday weekend.
“The Rim Fire burning near and in Yosemite National Park has now burned 235,841 acres (369 square miles) and is now 75 percent contained,” Cal Fire’s Daniel Berlant wrote in a daily update. It is the fourth-largest wildfire in the state’s history.
On the U.S. Forest Service’s InciWeb Website, an update on Sept. 3 noted, “Active fire behavior continued into the late evening (Monday) and moderated overnight as humidity recovered. Moderate rates of spread were observed both in advancing ground fire and burnout operations.” Weather conditions were to be similar to Monday “although slightly drier.” Light showers were a possibility with little to no rainfall and a 10 percent chance of thunderstorms. “Smoke exposure and air quality will continue to be a concern to the public and fire crews. Spotting is possible on burnout operations and resulting in slow and cautious progression.”
The update noted that “Good progress was made with burnout operations on the northwestern and southwestern edges of the fire.” Mandatory evacuations remained in effect to the south of Highway 120 toward Yosemite National Park, north of Old Yosemite Road. Tioga Road west of the Yosemite Creek Picnic Area was closed. Stanislaus National Forest was closed for locations near and in advance of the fire. Though not mandatory, an evacuation advisory continued for areas east of Highway 108 from Ponderosa Hills north to Pinecrest. “Several locations to the west side of Yosemite National Park have also had closures implemented as a result of the fire’s spread.”
Access to the fire remained difficult for ground crews due to the terrain. “Due to inaccessible steep terrain and extreme fire behavior suppression efforts on active portions of the fire are being significantly challenged. Heavy reliance on aviation resources has been critical in an effort to slow the fire’s progress to allow suppression resources to establish indirect control lines in areas where accessibility and safety can be achieved. The availability of heavy aircraft is pertinent to the success of suppression efforts.” Fuels for the fire consist of brush, oaks and pines.
Weather was also a concern, with dry conditions expected in the next several days along with slow burnout progress. Remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, were being used to provide “realtime visual and infrared intelligence on the fire.”
According to the Cal Fire Website, 5,506 structures were threatened as of 9 a.m. Tuesday: 4,500 residences, 1,000 outbuildings and six commercial structures.
A total of 4,359 personnel were fighting the conflagration, using 257 engines, 121 fire crews, 14 helicopters, 67 bulldozers and 61 water tenders.
The USFS’ current expected containment is Sept. 20 at 12 a.m.
Berlant provided a list of the major fires in California:
Unified Command Fires
Rim Fire, Tuolumne County
Stanislaus National Forest/CAL FIRE northeast of Groveland
235,841 acres — 75 percent contained
Evacuations in effect
4,500 residences threatened
Forks Complex, Siskiyou County
US Forest Service — Six Rivers National Forest six miles southeast of Somes Bar
35,892 acres — 45 percent contained
Includes the Orleans Complex (Butler Fire) and the Salmon Complex
Corral Complex, Humboldt County
US Forest Service — Six Rivers National Forest east of the Hoopa Indian Reservation
11,924 acres — 49 percent contained
Fish Fire, Tulare County
US Forest Service — Sequoia National Forest 25 miles northeast of Springville
2,060 acres — 90 percent contained
Windy Fire, Tulare County
Tule Indian Reservation 12 miles east of Springville
250 acres — 70 percent contained
Gobblers Fire, San Bernardino County
US Forest Service — San Bernardino National Forest six miles south of Wrightwood
413 acres — 95 percent contained
Aspen Fire, Fresno County
US Forest Service — Sierra National Forest near Huntington Lake
22,942 acres — 95 percent contained.