TUOLUMNE COUNTY – Investigators from the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations and Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office have determined cause of the Rim Fire.
The fire, which began on Aug. 17 on the Stanislaus Nation Forest near the area known as Jawbone Ridge, has been determined to have started when a hunter allowed an illegal fire to escape.
Speculation about an illegal marijuana plot grew out of comments made by Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeal at a community meeting on Aug. 23. However, officials say there is no indication the hunter was involved with illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands, and no marijuana cultivation sites were located near the origin of the fire.
No arrests have been made at this time and the hunter’s name is being withheld pending further investigation.
The Rim Fire has burned 237,341 acres and is 80 percent contained. There are still 3,975 personnel assigned to the incident, down from over 5,000. Currently there are 2,495 structures still threatened. The cost to fight the Rim Fire to date is estimated at $81 million.
Yesterday there was minimal growth on the Rim Fire. An updated acreage is not available because last night’s infrared flight was grounded due to mechanical difficulties.
On the southeast flank, control lines are holding well, and last night’s firing operations were successful off the Tioga Road.
Today the main fire is expected to advance towards the Tioga Road and areas burned out last night. Hot and dry conditions are expected to persist through the weekend. Winds gusting up to 18 to 25 mph out of the SSE could challenge containment lines on the fire’s northeast flanks.
Fire crews are working to improve containment lines on the north flank. Crews are also continuing mop-up and improvement of containment lines on the fires western flank.
Park and Forest Closures
Yosemite National Park has closed Tamarack Flat and Yosemite Creek Campgrounds, both located along Tioga Road. White Wolf Campground and White Wolf Lodge remain closed.
The Stanislaus National Forest has issued an area closure for the entire Groveland Ranger District and for the Mi-Wok Ranger District east of Highway 108. Additional details are available from the Stanislaus Forest Supervisor’s Office, 209-532-3671; Mi-Wok Ranger Station, (209) 586-3234; Summit Ranger Station, 209-965-3434; and Groveland Ranger Station, 209-962-7825.
Highway 120 remains closed from Buck Meadows to 1 ½ miles east of White Wolf. Highway 120 east/Tioga Road remains open from 1 ½ miles east of White Wolf to the Tioga Pass entrance. Cherry Lake Road is closed at Highway 120. Evergreen Road and Old Yosemite Road are also closed.
Highway 120 from Ferretti Road to Buck Meadows remains open for local residents and businesses only.
Evacuations and Advisories
There are currently no mandatory or advisory evacuation orders effective in Mariposa or Tuolumne Counties, however there are roads that remain closed. Highway 120 at the Yosemite National Park boundary west to Buck Meadows has been evacuated.