California: Rim Fire at Yosemite NP

Rim Fire

(UPDATE at 9:45 a.m. PDT, September 10, 2012)

Horseshoe Meadows Hotshots Rim Fire
A crewmember of the Horseshoe Meadows Hotshots, on the Rim Fire, September 2, 2013. USFS Photo by Mike McMillan.

Firefighters have made some progress on the Rim Fire since our last update on September 4. As you can see in the map below, the fire has grown very little in the last six days, and most of the change in the fire perimeter is most likely a result of firefighters burning out the vegetation ahead of the fire.

Map of Rim Fire
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 1 a.m. PDT, September 10, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. PDT, September 3, 2013. The western boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The fire has burned 254,685 acres and the incident commander is calling it 80 percent contained. Over 3,000 personnel are assigned to the incident, down from more than 5,000 a week or so ago. Over the last 24 days since it started, the costs for suppressing the fire has grown to $100.4 million.

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(UPDATE at 6:50 a.m. PDT, September 4, 2013)

Rim Fire burnout
Rim Fire burnout, September 1, 2013. Photo by Mike McMillan.

As shown in the map below, the spread of the Rim Fire has slowed considerably over the last several days. Most of the acreage increases are a result of burnout operations out ahead of the fire, sometimes miles from the fire’s edge, in order to remove the fuel, eventually stopping the spread. The west and southwest sides of the fire have been very quiet for a few days. The only significant movement of the fire which may not be related to burnouts are on the east side, with most of it being in the Cherry Lake area. On the southeast flank firefighters have selected Highway 120/Tioga Road as their fireline and are burning out along the north side.

The fire has burned 237,341 acres and the incident commander is calling it 80 percent contained. Another 3,000 acres and it becomes the third largest fire in California history.

Map of Rim Fire
Map of Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. PDT, September 3, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter about 48 hours before. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 10:40 p.m. PDT September 3, 2013. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The strategy and tactics employed by the firefighters appear to be working. Instead of choosing the NEXT ridge for a fireline or burnout, they are selecting the BEST ridge, or sometimes a road, as the place to make their stand. This gives them enough time to execute what can be a miles-long burnout operation, and allows them some flexibility to conduct it at a time when the weather is favorable. These tactics have been used successfully on some very large fires on the Los Padres National Forest, including the Whitewater-Baldy, Basin Complex, Indians, Iron Alps, and Zaca fires.

There are currently no mandatory or advisory evacuation orders effective in Mariposa County. The evacuation advisory has been lifted for Ponderosa Hills and areas east, along the south side of Highway 108 up to Pinecrest. Highway 120 at the Yosemite National Park boundary west to Buck Meadows remains under evacuation.

Briefing at Rim Fire
Briefing at Rim Fire, September 2, 2013. Photo by Mike McMillan.

 

 

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(UPDATE at 9:30 a.m. PDT, September 2, 2013)

Silver State Hotshots Rim Fire
Silver State Hotshots conduct a firing operation on the Rim Fire, August 30, 2013. USFS Photo by Mike McMillan.

Firefighters on the Rim Fire continue to make progress on the containment of the fire with line construction and large burnout operations, but the fire on Sunday was active on the south and southeast sides. The west side has been quiet for a few days.

The map of the Rim Fire below shows the fire perimeter at 9 p.m. PDT, on Sunday night. Over the last 24 hours the fire grew by about 6,000 acres to bring the total to 228,670 acres (357 square miles).

Map of the Rim Fire
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 8 p.m. PDT, September 1, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter two days earlier. The western boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The weather forecast for the north side of the Rim Fire for Monday calls for 76 degrees, a surprisingly high 38 percent relative humidity, 16 percent chance of rain, 58 percent cloud cover, and winds out of the south at 9 mph shifting to the southwest. Tuesday’s forecast is about the same. The actual weather conditions can be monitored at the Smith Peak weather station.

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(UPDATE at 10:18 a.m. PDT, September 1, 2013)

Yosemite Valley's Half Dome obscured by smoke
Yosemite Valley’s Half Dome, normally seen in this view, was obscured by smoke at 8:36 a.m. September 1, 2013

On Saturday the Rim Fire continued to grow, adding another 3,000 acres to become at 222,77 acres the fourth largest fire in California history. Winds that shifted to come out of the west over the last two days have blown smoke into downtown Yosemite National Park, into the heavily visited Yosemite Valley. Compare these two photos of the valley; the one above was taken Sunday morning by a web cam, and the photo below we took on a day when the air was much cleaner.

Yosemite Valley January, 1997
Yosemite Valley January, 1997, a few days after a flood caused major damage to National Park Service facilities in the valley. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The 5,115 personnel assigned to the fire are fighting it by constructing direct fireline along the fire’s edge, and by indirect methods including burning out the fuel ahead of the fire. The smoke has limited the use of air tankers and helicopters for the last two days.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the fire may have been caused by activities at an illegal marijuana farm.

“We don’t know the exact cause,” Todd McNeal, fire chief in Twain Harte, a town that has been in the path of the flames, said on Friday. But he told a community meeting that it was “highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing.”

“We know it’s human caused. There was no lightning in the area,” he said.

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(UPDATE at 7:15 a.m. PDT, August 31, 2013)

Monterey Hotshots on the Rim Fire
Monterey Hotshots on the Rim Fire, August 29, 2013. Photo by Mike McMillan.

Firefighters are making significant progress on the Rim Fire that burned from California’s Stanislaus National Forest into Yosemite National Park. A satellite that passed over the fire at 1:18 a.m. Saturday detected no large heat sources on the west side of the fire, as you can see in the map of the fire below. A great deal of heat was found on the southeast side where firefighters are engaged in burnout operations to remove fuel ahead of the fire.

Map of Rim Fire at 1:18 a.m. PDT August 31, 2013
Map of Rim Fire. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:18 a.m. August 31. The red line was the perimeter at 9 pm PDT, August 30, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter about 24 hours before. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

Smoke over the fire on Friday kept the air tankers working out of Fresno air attack base grounded for most of the day.

Mapping shows that 219,277 acres have been blackened by the fire, and the incident commander is calling it 35 percent contained. As sections of the fire become contained, some firefighters have been released. The total number of personnel assigned to the fire decreased Friday from 4,931 to 4,844, which is still a huge army of firefighters.

Friday night the incident management team issued this evacuation update:

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office has issued a mandatory evacuation for the areas north and south of Bull Creek Road to Little Grizzly Mountain. Effective 10:30 P.M. August 30. For more information please contact the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office at: 209-966-3311.

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(UPDATE at 7 p.m. PDT, August 30, 2013)

The Rim Fire in and near Yosemite National Park in California has now burned 213,414 acres (333 square miles). The number of destroyed structures remains at 111 —  11 residences, 3 commercial structures, and 97 outbuildings. It is being fought by 4,931 firefighters.

If the fire grows larger than the 220,000-acre Matilija Fire that burned near Ventura in 1932, it will become the fourth largest fire in California history. That almost certainly will occur either Saturday or Sunday.

Today firefighters were engaged in several burning operations to remove fuel ahead of the fire. They worked at Pilot Ridge, Pilot Peak and Crocker Ridge on the southern portion of the fire. On the east side they burned south from Hetch Hetchy toward Harden Lake, and on the north side near Hells Mountain.

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(UPDATE at 3:40 p.m. PDT, August 30, 2013)

Monterey Hotshots Rim Fire
Monterey Hotshots hold line August 29, 2013. Photo by Mike McMillan.

Some facts about the Rim Fire:

  • Acreage: 201,894
  • Largest fire in the United States to date in 2013·
  • No. 1-ranked on national firefighting priority list
  • Fifth largest fire in California history
  • Second largest U.S. fire to date in 2013: Lime Hills Fire, Alaska 201,809 acres
  • States that have sent firefighters or other personnel: 41 and the District of Columbia
  • Uncontrolled fire edge: 96.8 miles
  • Completed containment line: 65.5 miles Completed dozer line: 105.7 miles
  • Total aviation hours: 14,400
  • Water dropped: 1.4 million gallons
  • Fire retardant dropped: 1.7 million gallons
  • Proportion of the fire burning within the Stanislaus National Forest: 74.6 percent
  • Proportion of the fire burning in Yosemite National Park: 24 percent
  • Proportion of the fire burning on state and private property: 1.4
  • Proportion of the Stanislaus National Forest within the fire perimeter: 16.8 percent
  • Proportion of Yosemite National Park within the fire perimeter: 6.4 percent
  • Size of the fire area: Larger than the land area of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined
  • Hot meals served: Breakfasts: 15,453 Dinners: 16,049
  • Pounds of firefighter laundry washed: 9,538.75
  • Burned or damaged guard rail posts to be replaced on Highway 120: 800
  • Damaged trees adjacent to power lines to be removed by Pacific Gas and Electric: 7,000

After 14 days of fighting the Rim Fire in and near Yosemite National Park, the fire continues to spread to the north, east, and south. Firefighters are working on indirect firelines and are conducting burnout and other firing operations out ahead of the fire where they can, including south of Highway 120 north of Old Yosemite Road.

The fire has now burned 201,894 acres and the Incident Commander is calling it 32 percent contained. Their estimated containment date is September 20. A huge number of personnel, 4,931, are assigned to the fire. We can’t remember a fire that had that many people working on it.

A map of the Rim fire is below. The incident management team is now producing a variety of maps, which can be found on InciWeb when the site is working.

Map of Rim Fire at 1 a.m. PDT, August 30, 2013.
Map of Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 1 a.m. PDT, August 30, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter about 24 before. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The IMTeam provided this update Friday morning:

Burnout operations continued overnight in the southeastern area of the fire. Fire crews continued construction of fire line along 3N01 Road to stop fire spread to the north. Structure defense continues in Pinecrest, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Cold Springs, and Hodgdon Meadow and Big Oak Flat in Yosemite National Park. Today’s plans are to continue the burnout in the Yosemite National Park south of Hetch Hetchy. If conditions allow, the Duckwall Mountain north to Fahey Meadow burnout will start. Air operations will be used to support all firefighting efforts, as needed.

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(UPDATE at 9:10 a.m. PDT, August 29, 2013)

Rim Fire as seen from Pilot Peak Lookout August 26. Photo by Mike McMillan.
Rim Fire as seen from Pilot Peak Lookout August 26. Photo by Mike McMillan.

The Rim Fire continued to spread Wednesday on the southeast, east and north sides, adding about 5,000 acres to bring the total up to 192,737 acres (301 square miles) to become the sixth largest fire in the recorded history of California. (See the map of the fire below.)

The fire has burned 11 residences, 3 commercial structures, and 97 outbuildings and is being fought by 4,840 firefighters.

Map of Rim Fire August 29, 2013
Map of Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 10 p.m. PDT, August 28, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter about 24 before. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

Wednesday night firefighters continued their burning operations near Duckwall Mountain and Pilot Peak and prepared for burning operations south of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park. Burning operations are planned near Duckwall Mountain and near Old Yosemite Road on the south side of the fire. Crews will these operations as long as weather conditions allow, and on Thursday they will also construct and improve firelines and provide structure defense.

A Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been brought in by the California National Guard to monitor the fire. While being remotely piloted, it can stay aloft for up to 22 hours.

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(UPDATE at 3:17 p.m. PDT, August 28, 2013)

Map of Rim Fire
The red line on the map of the Rim Fire was the perimeter of the fire at 1 a.m. August 28. The pink line was the perimeter about 24 hours earlier. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:49 p.m. August 28. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The red line on the map above was the perimeter of the Rim Fire at 1 a.m. August 28. The pink line was the perimeter about 24 hours earlier. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:49 p.m. August 28. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green.

The map shows that the fire did not spread on Tuesday as much as it has been expanding over the last week. This may be a result of higher relative humidities and the fact that in some areas the fire is moving into areas that contain less vegetation and more granite.

In another article at Wildfire Today we have the story of a 25-person crew that was in trouble on the fire and was assisted by retardant drops from military MAFFS C-130 air tankers. And at FireAviation.com we posted some photos of military Blackhawk and Pave Hawk helicopters that recently joined the fire fight.

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(UPDATE at 7:52 a.m. PDT, August 28, 2013)

Rim Fire
Firefighters along Highway 120 on the Rim Fire. Undated USFS photo by Mike McMillan.

The number of structures burned in the Rim Fire increased to 111 (31 “primary structures” and 80 outbuildings) when the fire burned through the Tuolumne Berkeley Family Camp, where 3 commercial structures and 85 tent cabins and outbuildings were destroyed. Overnight the fire continued to expand on the north side and to the east where it spread farther into Yosemite National Park. Another 4,500 structures are threatened by the fire which has cost $33 million to suppress so far. An area south of the fire north of Old Yosemite Road (Forest Road 2S01) is under a mandatory evacuation order.

About 187,466 acres (292 square miles) in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park have been blackened by the fire, which is challenging the 4,081 firefighters by exhibiting rapid spread and extreme fire behavior. Resources assigned to the fire include 68 hand crews, 491 engines, and 17 helicopters.

Firefighters have been slowed by having to deal with spot fires while conducting burnout operations. The incident management team is using aerial resources, including the DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers and the military MAFFS, for structure defense preparation ahead of the fire, control of spot fires, and for slowing the spread of the fire through terrain inaccessible to ground resources, in order to allow time for indirect line construction to be completed. Large Type 1 helicopters are providing point protection and are cooling areas where direct line construction can be achieved safely.

The Rim Fire has become the seventh largest fire in the recorded history of the state of California.

Additional firefighting resources are being ordered as contingencies for protecting the communities of Tuolumne City, Twain Harte, and Long Barn north of the fire. East of the Highway 108 corridor firefighters are involved in contingency planning and indirect fireline preparation.

We posted an excellent virtual tour video that shows the geographical relationship of the 187,000-acre Rim Fire to Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley, and some of the other landmarks in the area.

Weather

The relative humidity will not be extremely low over the next several days but on Wednesday the winds will be strong, blowing out of the southwest at 13 mph gusting up to 20 in the afternoon. At the 5,400 foot elevation the relative humidity will be 29 percent, the temperature will reach 78 degrees, and there will be a 30 percent cloud cover. Thursday will be about the same, but with the winds not quite as strong.

Road Closures

A portion of the Tioga Road, from Crane Flat to White Wolf, will be temporarily closed to all vehicular traffic beginning at noon Wednesday, August 28. This is to allow fire crews to build containment lines along the road before the blaze approaches, said Yosemite spokesman Tom Medema. Highway 120 east/Tioga Road remains open from White Wolf east to the Tioga Pass entrance. Highway 120 remains closed to all inbound and outbound Yosemite National Park traffic to Crane Flat Campground. Also closed are Graham Ranch Road, Cherry Lake at Highway 120, Evergreen Road and Old Yosemite Road. Highway 120 from Ferretti Road to Buck Meadows remains open only for local residents and business only.

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(UPDATE at 12:33 p.m. PDT, August 27, 2013)

Photo of Rim Fire
Photo of the Rim Fire from the Crane Flat Helibase web cam at 12:16 p.m. PDT, August 27, 2013 (click to enlarge)

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(UPDATE at 8:22 a.m. PDT, August 27, 2013)

Rim fire
Sprinklers protect the Merced and Tuolumne groves of Giant Sequoias. Incident Management Team photo.

The Rim Fire continued to grow on Monday, spreading farther into Yosemite National Park. It was also very active on the north and northwest sides, growing about a mile closer to the Mi-Wuk area on Highway 108. The fire is now about seven miles away from the highway.

An evacuation advisory was issued for a portion of the Highway 108 corridor, from Mi-Wok to Pinecrest. The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating the advisory and any evacuations if needed in that area. We were unable to find any information about the fire or evacuations on the Sheriff’s office website, but a spokesperson for the fire’s incident management team told us that all news about evacuations will be on the team’s InciWeb web page, (when the site is up and running).

The spokesperson also told us at 9 a.m. today that the fire has burned 179,481 acres (280 square miles), which is an increase of about 30,000 acres from yesterday morning. The incident commander is calling it 20 percent contained.

Assigned to the fire are 3,752 personnel, 64 crews, 440 engines, 15 helicopters, and 60 dozers.

Map of Rim fire at 10 p.m.  PDT, August 27, 2013
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter late in the day on August 26. The pink line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. PDT, August 26, 2013. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

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(UPDATE at 5:05 p.m. PDT, August 26, 2013)

Satellite data shows that the Rim Fire was very active on the east side at 2:02 p.m. PDT today. Quite a bit of heat was present south of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, indicating that the fire spread another mile or two farther east from the perimeter that was mapped early this morning at 2 a.m.

The satellite also recorded active fire behavior in three other areas: west of Cherry Lake, the northwest side of the fire, and the southeast side south of Highway 120.

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(UPDATE at 6:40 a.m. PDT, August 26, 2013)

NPS crew at the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
National Park Service fire crew at the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias on the Rim Fire. IMT photo.

The Rim Fire continued to show additional growth Sunday in all areas except the southwest side, adding about 15,000 acres, bringing the total up to 149,780 (234 square miles). The greatest spread was to the northeast where it ran for about four miles toward Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, coming within a mile of the lake. Northwest of Cherry Lake was another area that was very active, where it ran for about three miles.

Map of Rim fire
Map of the Rim fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. PDT, August 26, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. August 24. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

Below is a video report on the fire from KCRA:

Evacuations

The incident management team released this announcement on InciWeb at about 3 p.m. August 25:

A Mandatory Evacuation has been issued for residences north of Old Yosemite Road (Forest Road 2S01).

An Evacuation Warning has been issued for all residences north of Bull Creek Road (Forest Road 2S02), Bondurant Mine Road, Texas Hill Road, and Wampum Hill. The Mandatory Evacuation and Evacuation Warning has been issued by the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office. For more information please contact the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office at: 209-966-1133.

Locals may know where these road are. After a great deal of research, we found them as well. They are south of the fire, south of Highway 120, and west of the intersection of Tioga Road and Highway 120.

Weather

The weather forecast for the area north of the fire is about the same as Sunday — 76 degrees, 29 percent relative humidity, 2 percent chance of rain, 10 percent cloud cover, and south to southwest winds of 13 mph gusting to 20 mph. Tuesday’s forecast is about the same, but the wind will not be quite as strong.  The actual weather conditions can be monitored at the Smith Peak weather station.

Rim Fire, August 22, 2013. NASA photo.
Rim Fire, August 22, 2013. NASA photo.

Availability of information

Considering the size and scope of this fire and the number of locals affected, the incident management team is not distributing a great deal of information. The evacuation updates they provide on InciWeb are extremely brief and give few clues as to the exact location of the affected areas. We were unable find any information about evacuations on the Mariposa Sheriff’s office website, the agency that is implementing the evacuations.

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(UPDATE at 6:07 a.m. PDT, August 25, 2013)

Rim Fire, August 21, 2013.
Rim Fire, August 21, 2013. Photo by Robert Martinez.

The Rim Fire continued to spread on the north and east sides Saturday, but not as much as it had been growing over the last several days. It added another 8,000 acres to bring the total to about 134,000. About 11,000 of those acres are inside Yosemite National Park.

As it moves to the east there will be more rock in its path which could slow it down. However, there is more vegetation and less rock north of the fire toward the communities of Tuolumne, which is four miles from the fire, and Twain Harte eight miles north of the fire.

Map of Rim fire at 9 m  PDT, August 24, 2013
Map of the Rim fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. August 24. The pink line was the perimeter at 1 a.m. August 24 . The boundary of  Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

Evacuations

An evacuation advisory has been issued for Tuolumne City and the area east of Highway 108 to Mi-Wok Village. Highway 120 at the Yosemite National Park boundary west to Buck Meadows has been evacuated. Current information about evacuations can be found at InciWeb.

Weather

Sunday’s weather forecast for the area north of the fire at a point 9 miles east-northeast of Twain Harte at 5,400 feet, includes strong southwest winds of 14 mph gusting to 21 in the afternoon. At that location the temperature should be 77 degrees, the relative humidity 26 percent, with a 10 percent cloud cover and a 1 percent chance of rain. The forecast for Monday is about the same. These conditions will be challenging for firefighters. The actual weather conditions can be monitored at the Smith Peak weather station.

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(UPDATE at 8 p.m. PDT, August 24, 2013)

A 2:15 p.m. PDT today the fire was very active on the east and northeast sides, and had moved a mile or so farther into Yosemite National Park, beyond the perimeter we showed in the maps this morning. The fire was very active around Mather.

This afternoon the incident management team announced that evacuation advisories had been lifted for Pine Mountain Lake and Buck Meadows.

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(UPDATE at 1 p.m. PDT, August 24, 2013)

Rim Fire map
Rim Fire overview map, August 24, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The map above shows the relationship of the Rim Fire to some of the communities in the area. For example, the towns of Twaine Harte, Mi-Wuk Village, Cold Springs, and Long Barn are eight to ten miles from the fire. The center of Groveland is about 3 miles away and Coulterville is 9 miles from the fire. Yosemite Valley is 16 miles southeast of the fire and El Portal is 12 miles from the fire.

The weather predicted for the fire area is very consistent all the way through Thursday, with 90 degrees each day, relative humidities in the mid-teens, and less than a 10 percent chance of rain. The winds during the day will be out of the southwest at 8 to 10 mph, except for Sunday afternoon when they will be about 13 mph. The actual weather conditions can be monitored at the nearby Smith Peak weather station.

This forecast is not extreme fire weather, but it is conducive to continued fire spread, and is enough to make it very difficult for firefighters to make a lot of progress, especially considering how large the fire is and their difficulty in obtaining all of the firefighting resources they need.

No federal air tankers on the first day

Speaking of a shortage of resources, during the first burning period when the fire was only on the Stanislaus National Forest, there were no federal air tankers or helicopters on the fire, just four CAL FIRE S2 air tankers and two CAL FIRE helicopters. The only federal aircraft was an Aerial Supervision Module. Since then there have been federally contracted P2V air tankers and more CAL FIRE S2s working the fire, in addition to the heavily promoted military MAFFS air tankers and the DC-10.

With more than 50 large uncontained fires in the western United States and only 11 federal contracted air tankers (and another 9 temporarily borrowed from the military and the Canadian government), it’s no wonder that a new developing fire did not receive any federal air tankers. In 2002 there were 44 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts.

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(UPDATE at 8 a.m. PDT, August 24, 2013)

Map of Rim fire at 1 a.m.  PDT,  August 24, 2013
Map of the Rim fire. The red line was the perimeter at 1 a.m. August 24. The pink line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. August 22 . The green line is the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. (click to enlarge)

The Rim Fire continued to spread into Yosemite National Park on Friday, adding 20,000 acres, for a total of 125,620 blackened acres.

The incident management team reports that aerial resources are being effective, with the MAFFS C-130 and DC-10 air tankers prepping locations in advance of the spread towards the Highway 108 corridor. The very high potential for long-range spotting however remains a significant concern for the fire to advance beyond the retardant lines, endangering the communities of Tuolumne City, Twain Harte and Long Barn. Due to inaccessible, steep terrain and active fire behavior a combination of direct, where possible, and indirect attack is being used.

Preparations for additional Base Camps and Spike Camps are in progress to reduce the travel time of the fire suppression resources, minimizing their exposure to potential accidents.

FireAviation.com has some very interesting videos of military MAFFS C-130 airtankers dropping on the Rim fire, shot from the cockpit of the aircraft.

Rim Fire, August 22, 2013
Rim Fire, as seen from 38,000 feet. August 22, 2013. Photo by Paul Clark.

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(UPDATE at 5 p.m. PDT, August 23, 2013)

Rim Fire
Rim Fire, undated InciWeb Photo

This map of the Rim Fire shows heat, represented by the red icons, detected by a satellite at 1:33 p.m. MDT, August 23, 2013. The location of the icons, which can be as much as a mile in error, indicate that the fire was very active on the south, west, and northwest sides during the middle of the day on Friday.

Map of Rim fire at 1:33 p.m.  PDT, August 23, 2013
Map of the Rim fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. August 22. The pink line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. August 22 . The green line is the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. The red icons represent heat detected by a satellite at 1:33 p.m. PDT, August 23. (click to enlarge)

On Thursday the fire burned into Yosemite National Park in California. Some media outlets reported that the fire burned eight miles into the park, but the mapped perimeter and the satellite data indicate that it progressed only about three miles, maximum, inside the park boundary, which is the green line on the map above.

At about 3 p.m. PDT, the incident management team reported that the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation advisory for the City of Tuolumne and Ponderosa Hills. No additional information was provided.

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(UPDATE at 12:11 p.m. PDT, August 23, 2013)

Rim Fire, August 21, 2013
Rim Fire, August 21, 2013. Photo by Robert Martinez.

The Rim Fire on the west side of Yosemite National Park doubled in size on Thursday as it moved about two miles inside the park. The fire has now burned 105,620 acres (165 square miles) after spreading about five miles on both the north and east sides yesterday. As you can see on the map below, it ran between Cherry Lake and Lake Eleanor and at 9 p.m. Thursday was about three miles from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Map of Rim fire at 9 p.m.  PDT, August 22, 2013
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. August 22. The pink line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. August 22 . The green line is the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. (click to enlarge)

The Blue Type 1 Incident Management Team from the Southeast Geographic Area will assume command of the Rim Fire on Friday.

The weather was a significant factor in the rapid spread of the fire Thursday. The relative humidity measured at the Smith Peak weather station was in the teens and the wind was generally out of the west at 10 to 14 mph gusting above 20 mph. The forecast for Friday calls for 90 degrees, a relative humidity in the teens, and calmer winds out of the southwest at 5 to 9 mph. The forecast for Saturday is about the same as for Friday. There is no chance of rain through Monday according to the National Weather Service.

The Incident Management Team is calling it two percent contained. They announced that 19 structures have burned but did not specify how many were residences or outbuildings. Another 2,500 structures are threatened along Ferretti Road, north of Highway 120.

Rim Fire
The Rim Fire moved past the Incident Command Post, August 21, 2013. Photo by Robert Martinez.

Yosemite National Park mostly open

For now, anyway, Yosemite National Park is open and the air in Yosemite Valley is clear, as can be seen in these web cams here, here. and here. However, Highway 120 is temporarily closed west of the park. Hetch Hetchy Road and Highway 120 from near Groveland to Big Oak Flat Entrance Station are also closed. Entrances to Yosemite via Highways 41, 140, and 120 from the east (Tioga Pass) are open. Hodgdon Meadow & Hetch Hetchy areas are closed. The Big Oak Flat Road is open within the park between Merced Grove and Yosemite Valley. While Hodgdon Meadow Campground is closed, all other campgrounds are open.

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(UPDATE at 8:20 p.m. PDT, August 22, 2013)

Map of Rim fire at 2:28 p.m.  PDT, August 22, 2013
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. August 22. The pink line was the perimeter 28 hours before that. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:28 p.m. PDT, August 22, 2013.  The green line is the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. (click to enlarge)

The map of the Rim Fire above shows heat detected by a satellite at 2:28 p.m. PDT on Thursday showing that the fire continues to spread to the north, east, and south. From that data, the fire appears to have crossed into Yosemite National Park and is well established south of Highway 120.

Fire managers said the fire has moved into the Cherry Creek Drainage just west of North Mountain lookout and has progressed to the Quinn Ranch and Woods Ridge areas. The eastward spread is along the south side of the Tuolumne River towards the community of Mather. The fire is expected to continue up the Tuolumne River canyon.

There is an Immediate threat to the electrical power infrastructure south of the Tuolumne River and State Highway 120. Structure defense is in place for Pine Mountain Lake, San Jose Camp, and the Spinning Wheel area.

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(UPDATE at 1:56 p.m. PDT, August 22, 2013)

Map of Rim fire
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. August 22. The pink line was the perimeter 28 hours before that. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 11:07 a.m. PDT, August 22, 2013.  The green line is the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. (click to enlarge)

The map of the Rim Fire above shows the mapped fire perimeters from Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but it also shows heat, the red icons, detected by a satellite at 11:07 a.m. MDT today, Thursday. The location of the icons can be as much as a mile in error, but the satellite data shows the fire has continued to spread to the east and north, and has come much closer to the boundary of Yosemite National Park, which is the green line.

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(UPDATE at 8:12 a.m. PDT, August 22, 2013)

Rim Fire. InciWeb photo.
Rim Fire. InciWeb photo.

The Rim Fire west of Yosemite National Park in California was very active again on Wednesday and grew by over 37,000 acres. It has now burned 53,866 acres and has come within two miles of the National Park. The additional acres came from spread on the north, east and south sides. As you can see in the map of the Rim Fire below, most of the fire is north of Highway 120 but it is also well established south of the Highway.

Map of Rim fire at 2 a.m.  PDT, August 22, 2013
Map of the Rim fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. PDT August 22. The pink line was the perimeter 28 hours before that. The green line is the western boundary of Yosemite National Park. (click to enlarge)

Approximately 2,500 structures are threatened. Two residences and seven outbuildings burned along Packard Canyon Road.

The incident management team said the use of the military MAFFS C-130s and the DC-10 air tanker “have greatly improved suppression efforts”. Military helicopters are also being used.

Highway 120 remains closed to all traffic in and out of Yosemite National Park.

The Type 1 Team from the Southeast Geographic Area will inbrief Thursday at 9 a.m. and will shadow the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Type 2 Team until they assume command later.

Evacuations

An evacuation advisory has been issued for the community of Pine Mountain Lake. Communities along Ferretti Road from Highway 120 to Clements Road and Highway 120 at the Yosemite National Park boundary west to Smith station have been evacuated. Evacuation centers are at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds and Greeley Hill Community Center.

For the most current evacuation information check InciWeb (if it is working).

Weather

There was poor relative humidity recovery Wednesday night; that is, the lowest RH recorded at the nearby Smith Peak weather station was 25 percent. The forecast for Thursday is about the same as Wednesday’s weather — 90 degrees, 10 mph winds out of the southwest, 17 percent relative humidity, zero percent chance of rain, and 8 to 17 percent cloud cover. This is not extreme fire weather, but it should contribute to significant additional fire growth.

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Rim Fire
Rim Fire near the USFS Groveland Ranger Station. InciWeb photo.

The Rim Fire west of Yosemite National Park in California was extremely active Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday it grew from about 10,000 acres to 16,228 acres. At 2:46 p.m. PDT on Wednesday a satellite detected a great deal of heat on the north and east sides, indicating that it is spreading closer to Yosemite.

Map of Rim fire
Map of Rim fire at 1:46 p.m. PDT, August 21, 2013. The pink line was the fire perimeter at 9 p.m. Tuesday. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:46 p.m on Wednesday. (click to enlarge)

The map above shows the fire perimeter of the Rim Fire at 9 p.m. PDT on Tuesday. The red dots represent the heat detected by the satellite Wednesday at 2:46 p.m. It appears that the fire consumed several thousand more acres Wednesday.

The fire is within the Stanislaus National Forest, approximately 6 miles west of Yosemite NP, 5 miles east of Groveland, and 21 miles north of Mariposa. It is moving up the Tuolume River drainage and has crossed the confluence with the Clavey River.

Structure defense continues for Buck Meadows, San Jose Camp, and the Spinning Wheel area. The fire burned two residences and seven outbuildings along Packard Canyon Road Tuesday as the fire pushed eastward.

The Rim Fire is being managed by the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Type 2 Team and will transition to a Type 1 Team from the Southern Geographic Area Thursday, August 22, 2013.

Evacuations

For the most current evacuation information check InciWeb (if it is working).

The Incident Management Team announced at about 12:30 Wednesday, “An Advisory Evacuation for all of Pine Mountain Lake has been issued.” That was the extent of the announcement, with no more details.

Communities along Ferretti Road from Highway 120 to Clements Road, Highway 120 at Cherry Lake Road west to Smith Station, Sawmill and Spinning Wheel campgrounds and Tawonga Camp are under evacuation orders. Evacuation centers are at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora and Greeley Hill Community Center in Mariposa County.

Weather

The weather forecast for the fire area for Thursday predicts 90 degrees, a 10 mph southwest wind, relative humidity of 17 percent, and a 22 percent cloud cover. Friday should be about the same. Weather conditions can be monitored at the nearby Smith Peak weather station.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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112 thoughts on “California: Rim Fire at Yosemite NP”

  1. I’ve been following this fire as it involves an area dear to our hearts. My husband and I made a handful of backpacking trips out of Cherry Lake over the years and were married on the southern beach of Kibbie Lake in 1984, where our wedding party camped. Many sincere thanks for this dazzling thesis of endurance, guts, and perseverance. Bless your hearts, each and every one. Good long showers and great beer to all!

  2. “EXPERT”: x an unknown, sprit uncontrolled drip, EXPERT. The two terms backfire and burning out are completely different tactical evolutions. Burning out (plan to) is probably what your seeing on the map. Establish mineral lines, use non flammable natural areas spare or no vegetation, water sources, roads to conduct burning out the vegetation between the establish line and the fire. You are working the fire, the fire isn’t working you. You have established the place (line) the time (usually at night, higher R.H. and favorable winds). If the aliment for burning doesn’t feel right (weather current and forecast, equipment and personnel not in place) your not time compressed to execute the burning. Backfire, usually only works in full blown timber fires, consuming large amount of oxygen (air). The more energy release (crowning) with moderate rate of spread the better. Your “make a stand” on a road or dozer line. Personnel are spaced out along the road or line awaiting orders to set fire as this wall of flames approaches. The wind is blowing in your face. The fire is usually within a quarter of a mile from your location when the wind will stop blowing. It will be spooky calm for a few minutes. You kick the dirt and see that the dust is now being sucked back into the approaching fire. Fire off your line quickly, get to a safety area if needed, watch for spots across the line. The more energy the backfire can produce as its sucked into the main fire will reduce the number of spots across the line, if any. Back Fire, Mother Nature is holding the high cards and your attempting a bluff.

    1. Thanks – now I know the difference between “burnout” and “backfire.” But my real question was, whether giving up 4 miles to a wildfire is the sort of thing firefighters sometimes have to do, and probably did in the Rim Fire. If so, I’m prepared to accept that, but I find it amazing.

      1. A trip to the Rim of the World on Highway 120 may give you a little better perspective of what fire fighters where faced with. From the Rim look into the deep canyon a little down stream. 2004 CDF fire fighter lost her life, Tuolumne Fire. Scan another mile down canyon, 1949 fire dozer was overrun by the Walton Spur Fire the operator was burned to death. No one wants to “loss” more timber than is necessary. In others word you sometimes you have to loss a little to save a lot. Although it may not seem like it the Rim fire fighters did a heck of a job.

        1. “the Rim fire fighters … a heck of a job” – Amen. Just like you, I want everyone to come out alive, and I know that doesn’t always happen. But on one point, I’d use different words. Rather than “lose a little to save a lot,” I might say that the firefighters have to “lose a lot to save a far bigger lot.” Or maybe, in a fire like this one, 4 miles by 6 miles of forest is only “a little”- in comparison. I like your word “perspective” – we need it with such tough terrain, such dry fuels, and thousands of houses at risk.

  3. Yesterday the Rim Fire burned through the old-growth sugar pine forests in Big Oak Flat and Crane Flat, according to the InciWeb map. This is, or was, the finest old-growth sugar pine forest remaining, and was the focus of a major conservation campaign in the 1920s leading to their inclusion in Yosemite NP in 1930. Does anyone know how severely the sugar pine forest burned? Is it gone? – Bill C. in Albuquerque

  4. Just an observation, but in the picture where the Silver State Hotshots are conducting a firing operation on the Rim Fire…
    http://wildfiretoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Silver-State-Hotshots-on-Rim-Fire-August-30-2013-USFS-Photo-by-Mike-McMillan.jpeg

    Does it appear to anyone except me, that the dozer berm is on the wrong side of the line?

    I know there are situations where the berm cannot always be cast to the “outside” of the line, but I’ve been skinning cat on fires for about 24 years now, and we usually ask, just to make sure… I have never been told NOT to cast to the outside.

    However, on very rare occasions, usually grass and sage brush fires and only through corroboration with my dozer boss (HEQB, now), I will angle and tilt my blade, it’s a “six-way”, and doze dirt right on the flames … this does work rather well to stop the flame front, because I can track along rather fast and the blade throws the dirt a bit. It will leave a “hot berm” however, so needs monitoring as some fuel is always mixed with the dirt, can be a mop up mess, too.

    The effect on the dirt is similar to…
    http://www.heavyequipmentforums.com/attachment.php?s=056ed3a528aee04059a0a434204a737f&attachmentid=23828&d=1221190320

    Yeah, that’s me on the Dunn Mountain Fire about this time of year in 2008.
    I wasn’t putting dirt on the flames there, I was casting out.
    My DOZB took the picture of me, I took this one… of him. 🙂

    http://www.heavyequipmentforums.com/attachment.php?s=056ed3a528aee04059a0a434204a737f&attachmentid=23832&d=1221191035

    Heck of a guy… really liked him!!!

    OCR

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