A tanker drops retardant on the Rim Fire near Yosemite
National Park, California. REUTERS/Mike McMillan/US Forest
Firefighters battling a colossal California wildfire that
has eaten away at the Yosemite National Park backcountry
managed overnight to largely stem the spread of the flames,
The fire sent heavy smoke on Saturday into the popular
touristic Yosemite Valley, an area famed for towering granite
rock formations, waterfalls and pine forests, obscuring views
of popular landmarks on a holiday weekend at the end of the
summer tourist season.
Despite footage from cameras posted on the park's website
showing continued smoky conditions in the park, no further
road closures within Yosemite were reported, and containment
lines held steady at 40 percent.
"We have been able to hold the line. It's just trying to
figure out how to wrap this thing up and put a bow around
it," said fire incident spokeswoman Leslie Auriemmo, adding
that there were no fresh closures in the park.
The Rim Fire had charred nearly 223,000 acres (89,000
hectares) by early on Sunday, mostly in the Stanislaus
National Forest which spreads out from Yosemite's western
edge although the blaze has blackened about 6 percent of
Yosemite's wilder backcountry.
The Yosemite Valley has been open to visitors since the fire
broke out two weeks ago, but smoke began spreading to the
area on Friday ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend that in
the past years has seen the park fill with visitors.
The smoke from the fire, whose footprint now exceeds the area
of Dallas, was expected to at least partially clear on Sunday
afternoon as winds shift, fire managers said.
Some 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, most going
during the peak months of June through August. Some 620,000
normally visit the park in August alone, but due to the fire,
attendance has dropped.
Close to 5,000 people are working to put out the fire,
including firefighters from agencies across California and
nearly 700 specially trained California prison inmates.
Among the landmarks potentially in the path of the blaze are
two groves of the park's famed sequoia trees.
"We are working very hard to protect that. All the lines are
in place so it doesn't go into those groves," Auriemmo said.
Firefighters have carried out controlled burns around the
groves to clear away debris that could otherwise fuel a fire
to such an intensity that it dangerously licks at the trees'
Lower-intensity fires, on the other hand, play a vital role
in the reproductive cycle of the tough-barked sequoia, many
of which bear the scars of past wildfires, by releasing the
seeds from their cones and clearing the soil in which they
The blaze has edged out the 1932 Matilija wildfire in Ventura
County to become the fourth-largest California wildfire on
record, according to figures from the California Department
of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.