(Adds details from San Francisco utilities, details on Idaho
By Laila Kearney
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 24 A fast-moving wildfire on
the edge of Yosemite National Park has forced the closure of two
more areas of the park, but an official said on Saturday he was
cautiously optimistic that firefighters could halt the advance
The so-called Rim Fire, which had grown to just over 125,000
acres (50,585 hectares) as of early Saturday, remained largely
unchecked with extreme terrain hampering efforts at containment,
which stood at 5 percent.
The fire had blackened about 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares)
in the northwest corner of Yosemite on Saturday, up 1,000 acres
from the day before, said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. It
was consuming brush, oaks and pines and threatened some giant
sequoia trees in the park.
"We're working very closely with the fire team, but we're
not looking at any further closures," he said. "Things are -
knock on wood - things are looking good."
Officials have closed parts of the park's northwestern edge
throughout the week, including the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir area,
Lake Eleanor and Lake Cherry. The fire on Saturday remained
about 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the reservoir and more than 20
miles (32 km) from Yosemite Valley, the park's main tourist
center, Gediman said.
The latest sections to close are Tuolumne Grove and Merced
Grove. Officials said they have no plans to shut down the entire
park or its top attractions.
Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of
Forestry and Fire Protection, said crews were making progress
but the steep terrain in the area "definitely has posed a major
The fire was threatening power and water supplies to San
Francisco about 200 miles (320 km) to the west.
California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday declared a state
of emergency for San Francisco, saying the fire had damaged the
electrical infrastructure serving the city and forced the local
Public Utilities Commission to shut down power lines.
The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir provides water to 2.6 million
customers in the San Francisco area and Brown in his declaration
said the city's water supply could be affected if the blaze
harms the reservoir.
The reservoir provides about 85 percent of San Francisco's
water needs and has not been disrupted by the fire, said Tyrone
Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities
San Francisco could draw on water from neighbors if the
supply is compromised, he said.
There have been no reports of blackouts in San Francisco,
which is drawing on a reserve of power stored for emergencies.
It also has spent around $700,000 buying power on the open
market after two powerhouses in the path of the fire were shut
Berlant, the forestry spokesman, said about 2,700
firefighters were expected to be on the front lines on Saturday
to fight the fire, which started on Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus
Yosemite, one of the nation's major tourist destinations,
attracted nearly 4 million visitors last year. The park has been
posting updates and alerts on its website. (Alerts: www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm)
The blaze in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains is now the
fastest-moving of 50 large wildfires raging across the
drought-parched U.S. West that have strained resources and
prompted fire managers to open talks with Pentagon commanders
and Canadian officials about possible reinforcements.
There has been one reported injury, a heat-related injury to
a firefighter, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Ashley
Taylor. About 4,500 residences, three commercial buildings and
1,000 outbuildings are currently threatened by the fire, she
Through Friday, the fire had destroyed four homes and 12
An American Red Cross shelter at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds
in Tuolumne County located north and west of the fire had 184
people on Saturday, spokesman Jordan Scott said.
Campers forced from Stanislaus National Forest had taken
shelter there earlier in the week, but the fairgrounds shelter
now had people forced to leave their homes, he said.
"People coming in are obviously concerned about their home
and their situation," but their spirits have been "generally
upbeat," Scott said.
Highway 120, one of four access routes to Yosemite, which is
known for its waterfalls, giant sequoia groves and other scenic
wonders, was temporarily closed. The highway leads to the west
side of the 750,000-acre (300,000-hectare) national park.
Dozens of miles north of the fire in Reno, Nevada, smoke
from the Rim Fire and other nearby wildfires led the local air
quality agency to notify residents of the potential for poor air
conditions through Tuesday.
Several outdoor events in northwest Nevada scheduled for
Friday and Saturday have been canceled or postponed, including a
Reno food festival, according to local news station KOLO8.
Also on Saturday, more than 1,000 firefighters were closing
in on a sprawling 111,200-acre (45,000-hectare) wildfire now
about 75 percent contained near the ski resort town of Sun
Valley in central Idaho.
The 2013 fire season has already drained U.S. Forest Service
fire suppression and emergency funds, causing the agency to
redirect $600 million meant for other projects like campground
and trail maintenance and thinning of trees to reduce wildfire
risks, agency spokesman Mike Ferris has said.
(Additional reporting by Noreen O'Donnell in New York, Laura
Zuckerman in Salmon and Alexia Shurmur in Las Vegas, Idaho;
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Xavier Briand)