Rim Fire consumes over 10K acres

Craig Cassidy, The Union Democrat /

The Rim Fire burning in southern Tuolumne and northern Mariposa counties charred a path through trees and brush and destroyed two homes as it pushed south of Highway 120 yesterday, prompting evacuations of the Groveland Ranger Station and Buck Meadows area and forcing the highway's closure.

The fire had consumed 10,170 acres, mostly in the Stanislaus National Forest, as of early this morning. Two homes and some outbuildings along Highway 120 were lost, according to Stanislaus National Forest spokesman Jerry Snyder.

Because of the steep terrain, the fire was mostly being fought by airplanes and helicopters.

Today, the U.S. Forest Service requested additional resources of four tankers, an air attack and a helicopter, plus four "Type 2" teams and one "Type 1" team, each with about 10 to 20 members.

On Monday, some resources had been diverted to a fire near Lake Elsinore, Snyder said.

The total number of staff assigned to the fire was 455 as of this morning. Last night, it numbered 285.

Highway 120 remains closed between Buck Meadows and Ferretti Road in Groveland and will likely remain so for today, Snyder said.

In Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy Road was also closed and Highway 120 was closed to outbound traffic at the north gate.

Evacuations ordered yesterday in the Buck Meadows area remain in effect.

The first day of school was cancelled in the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District.

After holding to the southern rim of the Clavey River canyon Saturday and Sunday, the fire, propelled by wind gusts, jumped the Clavey and Tuolumne rivers Monday and worked its way uphill to Highway 120.

The blaze continued its southeast trajectory into the evening past Buck Meadows, heading toward Pilot Peak, about 10 miles southwest of Camp Mather.

Groveland Ranger Station employees were evacuated Monday and moved to Mary Laveroni Community Park in Groveland.

Areas also under evacuation advisories included the San Jose Family Camp, Yosemite Riverside Inn, Yosemite Westgate Lodge, Spinning Wheel Ranch and areas near Buck Meadows.

Many people - including 100 from the San Jose camp- were taken into Yosemite National Park by bus, Snyder said.

Highway 120 was closed about 3 p.m. Monday between Buck Meadows and Ferretti Road in Groveland.

As California Highway Patrol and Caltrans employees turned back traffic, a crowd of tourists gathered to brainstorm an alternate route to Yosemite National Park.

Mark Cooperider had just driven from Oregon to camp with his sister at Yosemite Lakes, but the highway's closure changed those plans.

"I have a tent in the truck, so we'll find some place to put it up," he said.

Along Ferretti Road, people parked their cars and watched billowing smoke and firefighting aircraft fly overhead.

Yosemite National Park visitors were turned back from the park's Highway 120 exit, forcing people to extend their stays or find another way out of the park.

Dick Whittington, the transit manager for YARTS, which runs buses from surrounding communities into the park, said at 5 p.m. that the agency still had two buses stuck in the park that were scheduled to return to their stops along highways 120 and 108.

They were trying to figure out how to get riders back to their homes and hotels.

The Rim Fire was discovered Saturday afternoon by a firefighting aircraft en route to a different fire off Cottonwood Road.

It started near the Lumsden Bridge, on the south side of the Clavey River Canyon.

It steadily grew to 800 acres between Saturday and midday Monday, when it took off.

The cause of the fire had not been determined.

Reporters Chris Caskey and Mike Morris contributed to this story.

11905719
The Union Democrat
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