2013-09-12 / Front Page

Gigantic blaze is still 80% contained

By Erik Skindrud

The Rim Fire was 80 percent contained at press time this week—the same containment total provided by firefighters one week ago.

The more than 3,000 personnel battling the blaze are not lying down on the job, however. The fire’s eastern flank is being allowed to burn into higher-elevation areas of Yosemite National Park where extensive granite provides a natural fuel break.

Given enough time, the fire “should burn itself out” on its east front, fire information officer Mark Healey said on Tuesday.

“We’re practicing low-impact fire-suppression techniques in that area,” Healey said. “That side makes up about 20 percent of the total.”

At more than 254,000 acres, the fire has consumed an area bigger than Dallas, Texas.

Also on Tuesday, Healey reported that protection efforts had saved two giant Sequoia groves. While the fire burned around the Tuolumne Grove near Crane Flat, a system of sprinkler lines had excluded the fire from the grove of big trees.

While the fire is now more controlled than its containment number would indicate, erratic weather smothered Mariposa in smoke on Monday. At press time, a return of high pressure this weekend made more smoke effects a possibility.

With all evacuations lifted this week, the world’s attention on the fire seemed to be shifting to a debate over what policies, if any, contributed to the huge and devastating blaze.

Last week, the fire information team reported that an unnamed hunter had sparked the fire with an illegal campfire.

There’s no doubt that fire suppression and other policies have left forests significantly denser than they were 150 years ago, Roger Bales of UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute told the GAZETTE this week.

Multiple methods, including thinning and controlled burns, can reduce fuel on forest lands. Not all people agree on which work best, of course.

“Sometimes you need an event like this to get more people to focus on reassessing forest management policy,” Bales said.

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Hello, I'm planning a trip to

Hello, I'm planning a trip to Yosemite NP on the first week of October. Anyone think there's a chance that SR 120 will reopen by then? Thanks.

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