TUOLUMNE COUNTY – The Rim Fire, burning on the Groveland Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest, has more than tripled in size since Wednesday, growing to 63,366 acres.
So far 9 structures have been destroyed, with some 2,500 more threatened just to the west of Ferretti Road north of Highway 120.
The fire, which started on Aug. 17, has closed Highway 120 to all inbound and outbound Yosemite National Park traffic, along with Ferretti Road and Highway 120 to Pine Mountain Drive, Smith Station at Highway 120, Cherry Lake at Highway 120, and Evergreen Road.
The fire is only 1% contained as of 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug 22, and continues to increase in size and burn actively through the day. It is moving west towards the community of Pine Mountain Lake, and is approaching Camp Mather to the east.
An evacuation has been ordered for the area north of Ferretti Road to Elderberry Road, and communities along Ferretti Road from Highway 120 to Pine Mountain Road and Highway 120 at the Yosemite National Park boundary west to Smith station have already been evacuated. Those in the community of Pine Mountain Lake have been advised to be prepared to evacuate. The evacuation center is located at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora.
As with the recent Aspen Fire, inaccessible, steep terrain and active fire behavior has hampered direct attack efforts, and a combination of direct and indirect attack has been implemented.
The very active fire behavior has raised safety concerns for crews adjacent to the fire’s edge, and smoke exposure within the deep drainage of the Clavey River will be an issue for fire crews as well, say Incident Commanders.
Though this began as a Forest Service incident, management of the Rim Fire has transitioned into unified command with Cal Fire and the Forest Service, effective on Aug. 21 at 2 p.m.
At this hour, the fire continues its eastward spread along Packerd Canyon Road and Pilot Ridge, and firefighters are staged to defend homes in San Jose Camp, Spinning Wheel and Tawonga Camp as the fire moves up the middle fork of the Tuolumne.
The Incident Command team says the availability of air tankers is pertinent to the success of firefighting operations, and the use of Maffs C-130s and the V-LAT DC-10 has greatly improved suppression efforts.
So far there are 1,849 personnel assigned to the incident, and there has been one injury to date. Cost to fight the fire as of today is $5.4 million.
David Cooper, Fire Management Officer on the Bass Lake Ranger District is serving as Incident Commander, as he did on the Aspen Fire.
The cause of the Rim Fire is under investigation.
The following areas are currently under evacuation advisory: Evergreen Lodge, San Jose Family Camp, Yosemite Riverside Inn, Spinning Wheel, Rainbow Pool, Buck Meadow, Yosemite Vista Estates, Ferretti to Clements Rd., Berkeley Family Camp, Harden Flat, Naco West, Yosemite Lakes, Pine Mt. Lake, and Packerd Canyon.
The Tuolumne County Sheriffs Office has issued an evacuation order for residents north of Ferretti Road to Elderberry Road. An Evacuation Order is issued when there is an immediate threat to life and/or property.
An evacuation center is available at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora. For transportation information please call 209-533-5815.
(Thank you Gary Gilbert and Candace Gregory for the photos.)