Rim Fire structure threat declines

By Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat September 10, 2013 11:30 am

Some 615 structures were removed Monday from the list of those threatened by the Rim Fire, as containment continued to hold at 80 percent.

The blaze grew by little, and personnel continued to be released.

About 1,285 structures are now considered threatened by the blaze, which has scorched 254,685 acres.

Nearly 1,900 structures have been deemed threatened since Sept. 6 and 4,500 before that. The structures remaining threatened are to the north, south and southeast of the fire perimeter.

“Within the 80 percent containment, the containment has been determined to be more stable — enough to consider some of the nearby structures no longer threatened,” said Anne Grandy, public information officer for the Rim Fire. 

The number of lost structures still stood at 111 this morning — 11 residences, three commercial buildings and 97 outbuildings, including several camp tent cabins.

The uncontained portions of the fire are primarily a “creeping growth” area between Cherry Lake and Hetch Hetchy, filled with granite and the remaining “troublesome line” between Hetch Hetchy and Tioga Road, she said.

Fire growth potential still remains high, however, according to Stanislaus National Forest officials. 

The combination of winds, heat and pockets of unburned fuels has kept firefighters working over the last few days to hold containment lines and contain new spot fires — fires that start outside containment lines from jumped embers. 

On Monday, all identified spot fires were contained, according to Grandy. This included 15 spot fires along Tioga Road and some remaining from the dozens which started over the weekend. 

“But spotting is a constant threat,” Grandy said, explaining conditions still are “hot, and dry with unstable air,” combined with already overly dry fuels from drought conditions to make “receptive fuel beds and active spotting” she said. 

Today, the weather forecast of a high temperature at 90 degrees and winds of 5 to 8 mph may mean the same outlook. Tomorrow’s forecast is more favorable, with higher humidity and lower temperatures. 

Today’s agenda includes implementing the “Suppression Repair Plan,” which involves immediate ecological restoration on suppressed areas such as bulldozer and hand crew lines. Also, the first steps of ecological review will begin this week to lead to rehabilitation later. 

The fire’s size has grown relatively little — up 2,500 acres from Saturday. The flames have been finding numerous pockets of unburned fuels within the perimeter that it missed when first sweeping through, Grandy said. 

Smoke will continue to be an issue, she said.