4,000 Homes Threatened Near Yosemite

July 28, 2008 8:30:58 PM PDT
The Telegraph Fire is moving at a fast and fierce pace at the gateway to Yosemite National Park and the number of homes threatened by flames has doubled to 4,000. A main artery into Yosemite is now closed. The fire is burning between Mariposa and the town of Midpines just west of Yosemite along Highway 140, near the western entrance to the park.

Firefighters have their work cut out for them with 27,000 acres burned so far since Friday and it's only 10 percent contained. The aerial attack is crucial because so many of the areas are just too remote. The goal is to keep the fire away from the national treasure.

While the fire is still five miles away from Yosemite National Park border, the ultra dry conditions and shifting winds could push it much closer. Once the fire enters the Federal land, crews will have to fight this fire differently because of park protection rules enacted by Congress.

"We would probably use less bulldozer application on the land in certain parts of the park. In other parts of the park, we might resort to bulldozer use. Hand crews, engines and aircraft would probably remain about the same," said Steve Shackelton, a National Park Service Ranger.

Much of the last few days have been spent trying to control this fire that is in steep rugged terrain. At least a dozen homes have been lost so far. Hundreds of evacuees are still waiting for word on whether one of those losses is their home.

"I don't know. I don't know what to do or who to call. There's no web site. There's no place to go," said Iggy Ketvirtis, an evacuee.

It's no fun at Yosemite Valley either. To keep firefighters safe, a major transmission line had to be cut. Unfortunately, that meant some tourist areas had no electricity for quite some time.

"They told us that there's no electricity, no hot water, no coffee, nothing. So we decided to go to San Francisco," said Frank Haeger, a German tourist.

Nobody wants this blaze to get to Yosemite which is considered a national treasure. Nearly 3,000 fire personnel, some from the Butte Fires, are desperately trying to contain it. They're all hard at work because someone made a bad choice under these extremely dry conditions.

"It's an accidental target shooting and the remainder of the questions, are still undetermined and are under investigation," said Kevin Smith, a CAL FIRE Incident Commander.

About 20,000 visitors were at Yosemite on Monday, which is about normal for this time of year, so only a small group of people have left, but more could leave if they start feeling nervous about how close the fire is getting. And certainly the new road closures won't help to ease fears.


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