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Nonprofit starts fund to restore Yosemite in Rim fire's wake

August 30, 2013|By Joseph Serna and Tony Barboza

The Yosemite Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Yosemite National Park, has established a fund to help restore the park’s trails, facilities and habitat in the wake of the ferocious Rim fire.

“We anticipate that significant work will be needed to restore areas affected in the park once the heroic efforts of firefighters are completed,” conservancy President Mike Tollefson said in a statement.

Though the massive blaze was listed as 32% contained Friday morning, fire officials said their work is far from finished. The Rim fire, which has burned more than 200,000 acres, became the fifth-largest in California history Thursday as a result of natural spread and back-fire operations by firefighters.

For the third day in a row, crews were hoping that winds would cooperate and allow them to spark a large controlled burn ahead of the fire’s path to the east, south of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides water for San Francisco.

While firefighters over the last week have set defensive anchors along the fire’s western flank to protect homes, the blaze has been allowed to burn almost unimpeded eastward, deeper into the park. Only smaller controlled burns have been possible to this point.

“The fire is not having erratic growth like it was before,” said Alison Hesterly, a Rim fire information officer. “And the forward spread of the fire is slowing, which is a good thing.”

In backfire operations, crews use drip torches to light low-intensity fires beyond the fire’s perimeter. By eating up fuels in the fire’s path, they create a barrier to its expansion.

Authorities also spent Thursday building and improving containment lines, deploying bulldozers and hand crews. One strike team was on the lookout for flare-ups near Hetch Hetchy, while others worked to protect vulnerable structures.

More than 4,900 firefighters were battling the blaze as the cost to fight it ballooned to $47 million. The cause remains under investigation.

Officials expect the fire to be fully contained within two or three weeks, but said it would keep smoldering for some time and won’t be truly out until rain or snow arrives months from now.

Donations to the Yosemite Fire Restoration Fund will go directly to restoring areas damaged by the Rim fire, conservancy officials said. Donations can be made online or by mail to Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Fire Restoration Fund, 101 Montgomery, Suite 1700, San Francisco, CA 94104.


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