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Rim fire: Nearly century-old campsite near Yosemite is destroyed

August 27, 2013|By Robert J. Lopez and Joseph Serna
  • A firefighter surveys the smoldering ruins of the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp near Groveland.
A firefighter surveys the smoldering ruins of the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Among the 23 buildings destroyed by the ferocious Rim fire burning near Yosemite National Park was Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp, a series of wood cabins that had served as a summer retreat for Bay Area residents for almost a century.

The Rim fire turned the 15-acre property into a pile of cinders and ash, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday. The camp had been open since 1922 and was built along a fork in the Tuolumne River where campers could swim, fish, hike and practice archery. More than 3,500 campers visited the area annually, the Chronicle reported.

After the flames swept through, the camp’s swimming hole was surrounded by burned tree stumps, and the ground was littered with all the makings of a summer vacation, including lifeguard vests and children’s flip-flops.

Sarah Miller, who lives in Oakland, told the Chronicle that she, her husband and their two daughters have visited the camp regularly over the last eight years. They don’t know if they’ll ever get to go back, she said.

“Having a place where time stands still is really important, and I love that about that place,” Miller said.

The Rim fire has charred a swath of nearly 161,000 acres -- including about 21,000 acres inside Yosemite National Park. It has destroyed at least 23 structures and threatens two groves of giant sequoias and historical structures in the famed park. 

After declaring a state of emergency for the region last week, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday toured the devastation and met with fire commanders and first responders. The governor said President Obama had called him to express support and offer assistance.

“This is something that we have to live with -- it may even get worse in years to come -- but California will be ready for it,” Brown said at a news conference.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency this week announced that it will reimburse up to 75% of eligible costs for fighting the massive blaze.

Firefighters said Monday they were making some progress.

Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, including huge DC-10 bombers filled with fire retardant, made repeated assaults near Tuolumne in an area that fire officials have referred to as the California 108 corridor on the western flank of the blaze.

Officials said crews on the western edge were also conducting back-fire operations, a dangerous tactic in which firefighters burn vegetation inside a fire line to help contain a rapidly spreading blaze.

The blaze that broke out Aug. 17 was still spreading to the north and northeast into old-growth timber in the Stanislaus National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service said.


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