Rim Fire - Monday Update: Fire Grows Beyond 160,000 Acres, Evacuation Advisory Area Expanded



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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, August 26, 2013
 
Latest U.S Forest Service Incident Update

Update: 10:10 p.m. - Fire Grows Beyond 160,000 Acres, Evacuation Advisory Area Expanded

The fire crossed the 3N01 road in Reynolds Creek, prompting officials to expand the area included in an evacuation advisory in the Highway 108 corridor. The fire grew to 160,980 acres thanks to tricky weather.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect south of Highway 120 and north of Old Yosemite Road, with structure defense in place for the area. The fire is being fought both from the air and on the ground. Containmet is at 20 percent. A total of 3,678 personnel are assigned to the incident.

The fire is now the largest-ever in the Sierra.

Rapid fire growth Monday afternoon and extreme fire behavior are hampering suppression efforts. Reliance on aerial resources with heavy air tankers including MAFFs and DC-10 air tankers is occurring with structure defense.

The air drops are preparing locations in advance of the fire's spread, control of spot fires and slowing the fires advancement through inaccessible terrain to ground resources to allow time for fire line construction. Helicopters are providing point protection and cooling areas where direct line construction can be achieved safely.
Extremely dry fuels, high winds and potential for long-range spotting remains a significant concern. The availability of heavy aircraft is pertinent to the success of suppression efforts.

A Forest Closure is in effect for locations near and in advance of the fire. Several locations on the west side of Yosemite National Park have been closed. Evacuation advisories are still in effect for Tuolumne City and nearby areas along the Highway 108 corridor.

Access and difficult terrain remain concerns for crews and equipment. Good progress was made with constructing and securing lines along the southwestern edge of the fire.

Near Duckwall Ridge, the fire spotted across the line with crews working to control the spot. The fire also crossed the 3N01 road in Reynolds Creek, prompting an expansion of the evacuation advisory in the Highway 108 corridor.

Fire crews also were working to contain a spot fire in the southeast portion of the fire as it crossed to the south of Highway 120 at Ackerson Flat. Firefighters were successful in completing dozer line below Pilot Ridge, effectively slowing the fires spread in this location. Tonight crews will continue to work the three spot fires, as well as continue construction on contingency lines and provide structure protection throughout the fire.

Update: 5:20 p.m. - New Rim Fire Photo from International Space Station

0826 Rim Fire from ISS - 2
Another photo taken Monday of the Rim Fire smoke plume from the International Space Station. (NASA photo by @AstroKarenN)

Update: 4:35 p.m. - Tuolumne County Schools Closed Due to Fire

Tuolumne County's 22 schools are closed at least until Wednesday, keeping 6,500 students from kindergarten to 12th grade at home. Classes were to have begun last Wednesday but some schools near the Rim Fire couldn't open because of the blaze.

County School Superintendent Joe Silva says officials from air pollution agencies, the health department, and the school district decided the air is too unhealthy.

"It's very overcast, you don't have a lot of visibility, about half a mile, definitely smoky, you can smell it, it burns your eyes and that's been every morning for what  6-7 days," Silva says.

The closure will also help reduce traffic, making passage easier for emergency vehicles.

Silva says no schools are in the path of the fire. 

Update: 10:18 a.m. - Rim Fire Photo from International Space Station

0826 Rim Fire from ISS
Smoke from the Rim Fire as seen from the International Space Station. (NASA photo by @AstroKarenN)

Update: 9:43 a.m. - Map, Incident details added

0826 Rim Fire MODIS Map

An updated at 7:15 a.m. map showing the new burn areas  (red) and previously burned areas (yellow) of the Rim Fire. (Map Courtesy Rim Fire Information Facebook Page)


Update: 9:30 a.m. - Firefighters make progress overnight

 
The Rim Fire continues to spread in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.   It’s now charred about 150,000 acres and is 15% contained.  That's an improvement from 7% Sunday. 

“This is an explosive fire and we really have not seen in recent decades a fire grow at this rate." says CalFire's Daniel Berlant.  "You know, it’s doubled in size every day and the last couple of days we’ve managed to slow it down but this is an incredibly fast-moving fire.”

Berlant says overnight, humidity increased, which helped to curb the fire's spread, but strong winds are expected again today, which may push the fire eastward and further into Yosemite National Park. 

Berlant says the fire is so large that it continues to create its own weather. “We start to see erratic winds as the fire pushes it in any direction that it wants to take it, so even though we’ve got strong winds out of the south we are often seeing winds in any direction caused by the fire itself.”

Nearly 3,700 firefighters are now battling the blaze, which is now the 13th largest in California's history.  It's being fought on several different fronts and 4500 homes remain threatened.  Fire crews are dropping retardant to create containment lines outside communities like Twain Harte and Tuolumne City.  Berlants says if those lines don't hold, there are hundreds of fire engines ready to protect houses.

Several evacuation orders remain in effect, including a new one for homes on the northeastern portion of the fire.  Other evacuations, such as those in the Pine Mountain area, have been lifted.  

Many evacuees are staying with family or friends, but others have been sleeping at the American Red Cross shelter in Sonora.  The Capital Chapter of the American Red Cross set up a shelter at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds about a week ago.  Last night there were 91 overnight evacuees, down from a high of 184 on Friday night. It's gone down largely becaue the Pine Mountain evacuation orders have been lifted.

“A lot of these people that come in don't get that much time to pack up and evacuate their homes," says Jordan Scott with the Capital Region Chapter American Red Cross.  "it's very improtant that we have all these supplies on hand from food to cots to blankets and pillows and just these essential needs that people are going to need when they come into the shelter.”

Scott says the Red Cross is prepared to help up to 1000 people at that shelter if needed, and will open more shelters if necessary as well.

Update: 7:50 a.m. - Shelters Prepared For Evacuees

The American Red Cross says fewer Rim Fire evacuees stayed at its Sonora-area shelter over the weekend, but as the massive fire near Yosemite continues to burn, the agency is prepared for more. 

The Capital region chapter of the Red Cross opened a shelter at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds a week ago. It says Saturday night 135 people stayed overnight, marking the first decrease since the fire began.

That was likely because many Pine Mountain Lake residents were allowed to return home. 

There are still evacuation orders for several communities, though, and the Red Cross says the fairgrounds can accommodate up to one thousand evacuees. 

Update: 7:23 a.m. - Photo added

Update: 6:50 a.m. - Fire Grows To More Than 225 Square Miles

Hundreds of firefighters are digging trenches, clearing brush and starting back blazes to keep the raging Rim Fire north of Yosemite National Park out of several mountain towns.

The wildfire began August 17, and has grown to become one of the biggest in California history.

0826 Rim Fire crew rotator

National Park Service crews dig a hand line along a sprinkler hose as part of a multi-pronged approach to protecting the Giant Sequoias against the Rim fire. (Photo courtesy USFS)

Firefighters are hoping to advance on the flames today but strong winds were threatening push the blaze closer to the towns.

The fire has consumed more than 140,000 acres…or nearly 225 square miles. Containment stands at 7 percent.

ADDITIONAL UPDATES COMING THIS MORNING

Video Link: DC-10 air tanker makes drop on Rim Fire (Modesto Police Dept. Facebook page)

0826 Rim Fire Map

 

Basic Information

Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Under Investigation
Date of Origin Saturday August 17th, 2013 approx. 03:15 PM
Location Groveland Range District, Stanislaus NF
Incident Commander Wilkins/lawshe

Current Situation

Total Personnel 3,678
Size 160,980 acres
Percent Contained 20%
Fuels Involved

Brush, Oaks, and Pine

Fire Behavior

Fire became very active early in the day. Very fast running surface fire quickly transitioned into sustained crown runs and long range spotting on the fires eastern and southeastern perimeters located inside as well as advancing towards Yosemite National Park. Fire activity was moderate over the Southwest and western perimeters. Fire became fairly active in the early afternoon along the northern perimeter with spot fires challenging suppression resources and requiring heavy support from aerial resources.

 

Significant Events

Mandatory evacuations south of Highway 120 and north of Old Yosemite Road. Structure defense is in place for this area of the fire by ground and aerial resources. An evacuation advisory has been extended on the Highway 108 corridor. The new evacuation advisory is from Long Barn to Pinecrest. A Forest Closure is in effect for locations near and in advance of the fire. Several locations on the west side of Yosemite National Park have had closures implemented as a result of the fires spread. Evacuation advisories are still in effect for Tuolumne City and nearby areas along the Highway 108 corridor. Contingency planning, indirect line construction and preparation to the east of Highway 108. Access and difficult terrain remain concerns for crews and equipment. Good progress was made with constructing and securing lines along the southwestern edge of the fire. Good progress is being achieved with construction of contingency control lines along the northeastern edge of the fire.

Outlook

Planned Actions

Continued line construction where accessibility and safety allows.

Growth Potential

Extreme

Terrain Difficulty

Extreme

Remarks

The Rim incident is exhibited large fire growth today. Rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior and hampering suppression efforts. Significant utilization and reliance upon aerial resources with heavy air tankers including MAFFs and DC-10 air tankers is occurring with structure defense, prep of locations in advance of the fires spread, control of spot fires and slowing the fires advancement through inaccessible terrain to ground resources to allow time for indirect line construction to be completed. Type 1 helicopters are providing point protection and cooling areas where direct line construction can be achieved safely.

The extremely dry fuels, high winds and potential for long-range spotting remains a significant concern. Heavy reliance on aviation resources has been critical in an effort to slow the fires progress and allow suppression resources to establish indirect control lines in areas where accessibility and safety can be achieved. The availability of heavy aircraft is pertinent to the success of suppression efforts.

 

Current Weather

Wind Conditions 15 mph SW
Temperature 61 degrees
Humidity 60%
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