Yosemite fire prompts state of emergency in San Francisco (+video)

The 200-square-mile Rim Fire that’s edged into Yosemite National Park prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Francisco, which relies on water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir inside the park.

By , Staff writer

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    The Rim Fire burns near Groveland Ranger Station in California. The 200-square-mile wildfire that’s edged into Yosemite National Park prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Francisco, which relies on water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir inside the park.
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It’s 150 miles from San Francisco to Yosemite, but the 200-square-mile wildfire that’s edged into the national park has prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for the city hours away.

That’s because more than 2.6 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area receive water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite. San Francisco gets 85 percent of its water from the Hetch Hetchy, which is about four miles from the fire,

"This declaration will help San Francisco increase coordination and manage resources being deployed to support our local, federal and state partners who are fighting this fire," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a press release.

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According to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the fire has forced two of the three hydroelectric powerhouses that helps generate power for the city to be taken offline, reports AccuWeather.com, but delivery of electricity has not been impacted so far.

AccuWeather also reports that smoke from what’s been named the Rim Fire has traveled as far as eastern Oregon and extreme western Idaho. In Nevada, the smoke has forced officials in several counties to cancel outdoor school activities and issue health advisories, especially for people with respiratory problems.

The fire threatens some 5,500 residences, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It has destroyed four homes and 12 outbuildings, and it has forced the closure of a 4-mile stretch of State Route 120, one of three entrances into Yosemite on the west side.

Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said that the park had stopped issuing backcountry permits to backpackers and had warned those who already had them to stay out of the area.

"Right now there are no closures, and no visitor services are being affected in the park," Cobb said. "We just have to take one day at a time."

More than 2,700 state, federal and local firefighters from around the nation had joined the fight against the Rim Fire by Friday evening, and large air tankers battled the blaze from above, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, but dry weather, rugged terrain, and gusty winds limited efforts to carve out containment lines.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise reports that there now are 43 active large fires across the West covering more than 850,000 acres. That includes 10 large fires in California, 11 in Idaho, 6 in Oregon, and 5 in Montana.

“Nationally, initial attack activity was heavy with over 300 new starts,” the fire center reported Saturday. “Three new large fires were reported and four were contained. Firefighters have made great progress on many fires in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. Incident management will continue to move resources as they become available to areas with higher concerns.”

While this year’s fires so far are not as vast as last year’s, the US Forest Service’s fire-fighting budget already is depleted.

“As predicted this year’s fire season has led to costs that exceed appropriated fire suppression funds and once again we must now transfer funds from other accounts to make up the difference,” Forest Service Fire Chief Thomas Tidwell wrote to regional managers and other senior officials recently.

“We will strive to reduce these impacts, but cannot avoid them altogether,” Mr. Tidwell wrote. “I regret that we have to take this action and fully understand that it only increases costs and reduces efficiency.  I remain committed to finding a solution that in the future will avoid this disruption to our public service and land stewardship responsibilities and impacts to local economies.”

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