Officals say Rim Fire poses every challenge there can be

FRESNO, Calif.

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Saturday the state secured federal financial assistance to help cover the cost of the firefight. The blaze has now grown to more than 129,000 acres and is 7 percent contained.

Fire Chief Steve Henry from Coalinga is with a group providing structure protection in Tuolumne City. He says calmer weather conditions over the past 24 hours helped crews make some progress.

"They're putting in a lot more control lines, a lot more than they anticipated, so progress containment is growing rapidly," Henry said.

For 30 years, Ike Bunney has run a dude ranch amid the tall pines and steep canyons along the North Fork of the Tuolumne River in California's Sierra Nevada. Now his 15 horses are safe in distant pastures as wildfire on the northern edge of Yosemite National Park threatens his mountain community.

"We've already evacuated the horses," said Bunney, who was maintaining vigil Sunday at his Slide Mountain Guest Ranch. "I think they're worried about the fire sparking over these hills."

At the nearby Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne City, the slot machines were quiet as emergency workers took over nearly all of the resort's 148 hotel rooms.

"The casino is empty," said casino employee Jessie Dean. "Technically, the casino is open but there's nobody there."

As thick smoke portends the fire's fast approach, the area has been cleared of everyone but locals and emergency workers. Dean lives on the reservation of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians and left her four children at relatives' homes in the Central Valley.

With winds gusting to 50 mph on Sierra mountain ridges and flames jumping from treetop to treetop, hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to protect this and other communities in the path of the Rim Fire raging north of Yosemite National Park.

Eight fire trucks and four bulldozers were deployed to work near Bunney's ranch on the west side of Mount Baldy.

Overnight the fire grew 7 square miles as firefighters gained little ground in slowing the now 207 square-mile blaze, said Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"Today, unfortunately, we are expecting strong winds out of the south," he said. "It's going to allow the fire to advance to the northeast."

Fire officials are using bulldozers to clear contingency lines on the Rim Fire's north side to protect the towns of Tuolumne City, Ponderosa Hills and Twain Hart. The lines are being cut a mile ahead of the fire in locations where fire officials hope they will help protect the communities should the fire jump containment lines.

The high winds and movement of the fire from bone-dry brush on the ground to 100-foot oak and pine treetops have created dire conditions.

"A crown fire is much more difficult to fight," Berlant told The Associated Press Sunday. "Our firefighters are on the ground having to spray up."

Officials estimate containment at just 7 percent.

The blaze sweeping across steep, rugged river canyons quickly has become one of the biggest in California history, thanks in part to extremely dry conditions caused by a lack of snow and rainfall this year. Investigators are trying to determine how it started Aug. 17, days before lightning storms swept through the region and sparked other, smaller blazes.

The fire is the most critical of a dozen burning across California, officials say. More than 12 helicopters and a half-dozen fixed wing tankers are dropping water and retardant from the air and 2,800 firefighters are on the ground.

"This fire has continued to pose every challenge that there can be on a fire: inaccessible terrain, strong winds, dry conditions. It's a very difficult firefight," Berlant said.

Statewide, more than 8,300 firefighters are battling nearly 400 square miles of fires. Many air districts have issued health advisories as smoke settles over Northern California. On Saturday, organizers cancelled the 24th annual Lake in the Sky Air Show at Lake Tahoe because of poor visibility.

The Rim Fire has threatened two groves of giant sequoias that are unique the region, prompting park employees to clear brush and setting sprinklers.

The towering trees, which grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on earth, can resist fire. However, dry conditions and heavy brush are forcing park officials to take extra precautions in the Tuolumne and Merced groves.

The U.S. Forest Service says about 4,500 structures are threatened by the Rim Fire. Berlant said 23 structures were destroyed, though officials have not determined whether they were homes or rural outbuildings.

The tourist mecca of Yosemite Valley, the part of the park known around the world for such sights as the Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations and waterfalls, remained open, clear of smoke and free from other signs of the fire that remained about 20 miles away.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Ferretti Road Evacuation Order
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.

Evacuation Advisory for The City of Tuolumne and Ponderosa Hills

There has been an evacuation advisory issued for the City of Tuolumne and Ponderosa Hills. This advisory has been issued by the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office.

Highway 120 into Yosemite is closed
The highway is closed four miles west of Groveland Ranger Station and four miles east of Buck Meadows.

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: 209-966-3615.

Evacuation Advisories Lifted for Pine Mountain Lake and Buck Meadows

Evacuated residents from Highway 120 east to Buck Meadows and residents of Pine Mountain Lake, with exception of Graham Ranch Road beyond the cattle guard, will be allowed to return to their homes beginning on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 6:00 P.M. Residents along Graham Ranch Road, beyond the cattle guard, can expect to return as soon as fire conditions allow. Only residents and those that can prove they have legitimate business in the area will be allowed in. Pacific Gas and Electric has restored electrical service to all areas of Pine Mountain Lake impacted by the Rim Fire, with the exception of residences along Graham Ranch Road beyond the cattle guard.

Be advised that areas burned by the Rim Fire may still pose hazards. Fire weakened trees, burning stump holes, and large fire apparatus may be present. Entry into the burned areas is strongly discouraged. A forest closure order is in effect for the entire Groveland Ranger District and portions of the Mi-Wok District.

Residents experiencing problems with their electricity are encouraged to contact Pacific Gas and Electric at: 1-866-743-5002.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office can be reached at: 209-533-5815

The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office can be reached at: 209-966-3615

For Rim Fire Information call: 805-727-4775


Incident Overview
The Rim fire has transitioned into unified command with Cal Fire and Forest Service on August 21 at 2:00 p.m. Fire continues its eastward spread along Packerd Canyon Road and Pilot Ridge. Structure defense continues for San Jose Camp, Spinning Wheel and Tawonga Camp as the fire moves up the middle fork of the Tuolumne.

The fire continues to spread northwest burning past Butcher Knife Ridge and moving into Grapevine Creek; northeast up the Tuolumne River Drainage from the Gravel Range past Jones Point Lookout; and continue to spread southeast edge along Hwy 120 to the east.

Firing operations have begun on Ferretti Rd. as the fire progress west towards the community of Pine Mountain Lake. Direct suppression methods have been successful.

The availability of fixed wing air craft is pertinent to the success of suppression operations. The use of Maffs C-130s and the V-LAT DC-10 has greatly improved suppression efforts. Use of Military Rotary wing aircraft continues today. In the next 24 hours the fire is expected to continue up the Tuolumne River canyon, and continue its spread to the north and east.

Due to inaccessible, steep terrain and active fire behavior a combination of direct and indirect attack will be used on this incident. Direct line suppression efforts are impeded by difficult access and steep inaccessible terrain. Active fire behavior today raises safety concerns for crews adjacent to the fire's edge. Smoke exposure within the deep drainage of the Clavey River will be an issue for fire crews as well.

The South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team is managing the Fire as of August 18, 2013 at 6:00 P.M.

Current Situation

Size: 133,980 acres - 7% contained

Total Personnel: 2,846

Current Weather: Wind 20 mph SW | 58 degrees | Humidity 58%

Fire Behavior
Fire behavior remained moderately active overnight. Heavy fuels continued to actively burn and consume completely. Fire behavior in lighter fuels were minimal due to humidity recovery during the overnight hours.

Significant Events
Structure defense continues. Highway 120 is closed four miles west of Groveland Ranger Station and four miles east of Buck Meadows. Ferretti Road was closed. Access to the fire is still a concern for fire crews and equipment


Planned Actions: Continued fixed wing air support.

The Southeast Blue Team assumed command of the Rim Fire on August 23 at 6:00 A.M. and will remain in unified command with CalFire. Approximately 4,500 structures are threatened. Fire continues to spread eastward. The Rim Fire has crossed the Yosemite National Park Boundary. Due to inaccessible, steep terrain and active fire behavior a combination of direct and indirect attack will be used on this incident.



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