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Largest Fire In Park’s History Nears Containment

Yosemite National Park

National Park News

On Saturday, August 17th, the Rim Fire started in the Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite National Park.  The fire grew quickly – the rapid and ferocious growth has been attributed to heavy fuels and hot, dry weather.

The acreage of the fire grew from 3,000 acres to over 235,000 acres in approximately two weeks. It is now the largest wildfire in the park’s history and the fourth largest in the history of California. The cause remains under investigation.

On Thursday, August 22nd, four days after it started, the Rim Fire entered Yosemite National Park boundaries.  The fire initially burned into the Hetch Hetchy/Lake Eleanor areas of the park. This prompted the first closure within Yosemite National Park – the Evergreen Road, which leads to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The fire also entered the park west of the Tioga Road, which is the highest east-west highway crossing in the Sierra Nevada.

A Type II incident management team, the Southern Sierra Incident Management Team, was dispatched to lead the firefighting efforts. Several Yosemite National Park employees were assigned to the team to help with the firefighting efforts.

Shortly thereafter, a Type I Team was brought in. The Southern Area “Blue Team” took over leadership of the incident and based its command post at Drew Meadow on Highway 120. Superintendent Don Neubacher signed a delegation of authority for all firefighting efforts occurring within the park. Several Yosemite employees were embedded with the team, fulfilling roles such as agency liaison, resource advisor, information officer, etc.  Park staff continues to work very closely with team members in coordinating all work related to the fire.

As the fire moved through the Yosemite wilderness, the park closed additional backcountry areas and roads within the park. These closures included the Hodgdon Meadow and Crane Flat Campgrounds, the Big Oak Flat Road (Hwy 120) from Crane Flat to the park entrance, a large portion of the Tioga Road, and areas of the park wilderness. Campground reservations and backcountry permits were cancelled within the fire area.

Throughout the incident, Yosemite has been involved in the suppression efforts, including protecting natural and cultural resources. These included protecting two groves of Giant Sequoias (the Tuolumne and Merced Groves), old growth forest, park wilderness, multiple campgrounds, and residential housing areas. The park also worked to protect several historic structures, including numerous backcountry cabins, historic entrance stations, and rustic architecture in visitor service areas, and installed temporary sprinkler systems in the Tuolumne Grove and held fire operations along the Tioga Road, in the Tuolumne Grove, and around residential areas.

On Friday, August 30th, Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz, Deputy Regional Director Martha Lee, and Regional Fire Management Officer Sid Beckman visited parts of the park affected by the fire. They went to the incident command post and looked at burned areas along the Tioga Road. They were joined by Superintendent Neubacher and several Yosemite managers.

On Saturday, August 31st, Director Jon Jarvis visited the park to observe the fire operations and its effects on the park. The director was briefed by park management and went to the incident command post. He met with several of the team members, conducted media interviews, and toured the burned areas of the park and forest affected by the fire.

As of yesterday, the fire had burned a total of 237,341 acres, 67,309 of them in Yosemite National Park. It is now 80% contained. The Blue Team will demob this week and another Type 1 team is transitioning in to manage the fire.

Media interest has been intense, as the story of the Rim Fire has generated headlines around the world.

For more information, including maps and images, click on the link below.


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