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Rim fire near Yosemite doubles in size, forces evacuations

August 20, 2013|By Jill Cowan
  • Map shows area where a wildfire forced officials to close California 120 near Yosemite.
Map shows area where a wildfire forced officials to close California 120… (Google Maps )

A wildfire that shut down a major gateway to Yosemite National Park on Monday night has more than doubled in size, forcing evacuations and effectively cutting off westbound traffic out of the forest, officials said.

About 2,500 homes west of the Rim fire -- along Ferretti Road and north of California 120 -- are threatened, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jerry Snyder.

Two homes have already been lost as 455 firefighters struggled to contain the out-of-control blaze, which had burned through about 10,170 acres of rugged, hilly terrain in the Stanislaus National Forest.

The two homes lost to the blaze on Monday were along Packer Canyon Road. 

Meanwhile, evacuation orders were in effect for residents of the tiny vacation community of Buck Meadows.

Visitors staying at a few large organization-run camps nearby left behind luggage and cars as they were evacuated Monday night, Snyder said. He estimated that in the affected area, there are about five such camps with the capacity for 200 visitors each.

Snyder said the total number of evacuees hadn't been tallied, but that it is "prime time" for vacations "before kids start going back to school."

An evacuation center was set up at Tioga High School in Groveland, but Snyder said that was subject to change later Tuesday.

California 120, meanwhile, remained closed to traffic from Smith Station to four miles east of Buck Meadows.

Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said that parkgoers headed back to the San Francisco Bay Area could still leave on California 140, which she estimated adds about a half-hour to travel times.

"Depending on where you're going, it doesn't add a ton of time," she said.

Conditions, she added, were "a little smoky," near the park's Big Oak Flat entrance; however, in the Yosemite Valley itself, "skies are pretty clear."

A Forest Service incident update said that, given the extreme terrain, access to the fire for firefighters and equipment is a concern, meaning that its potential to spread is high.


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Twitter: @jillcowan

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