The Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park in California is now officially that state’s fourth largest fire. Smoke from the fire reached tourists in the heart of Yosemite on Saturday. Park officials are warning tourists there to not engage in any activity that could be considered strenuous.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Rim Fire became the fourth-largest fire in California in history when it surpassed the 1932 Ventura County Matilija wildfire.
The breath-taking area in the middle of the park, known as Yosemite Valley, now is clouded with smoke from the Rim Fire. Millions of people each year make the park a vacation destination.
Park officials at the Yosemite National Park were expecting more tourists than usual for this Labor Day Weekend, but the expected increase might be smaller than the officials had originally anticipated, due to the Rim Fire, which began two weeks ago near the park.
According to the Yosemite National Park’s website:
Heavy smoke is now visible south of the Tioga Road, including in Yosemite Valley.
“Visitors to the area should avoid extended strenuous physical activities outdoors. Additionally, those (..) sensitive to air quality impacts should avoid going outside in Yosemite.”
The hot, dry conditions in the area are making the conditions the firefighters find themselves in difficult, according to US Forest Service spokeswoman Leslie Auriemmo:
We’re hopeful that we are going to turn the corner, but it’s hot, it’s dry, and there is a westerly wind. There’s a lot of fuel out there. We remain in a high state of alert.”
The Rim Fire has already burned 219,277 acres, the equivalent of 343 square miles of forested area. 4,500 buildings are still threatened by the inferno.
Nearly 5,000 firefighters (4,995) have been brought in to combat the huge blaze. So far, 11 homes and 97 other structures have been destroyed.
Though the Rim fire was 35 percent contained on Saturday, officials have stated it might not be until September 21 that they have it entirely under control.
According to Yosemite National Park officials on Friday, the Rim Fire posed no danger to tourists headed to the park for Labor Day Weekend.
Currently, the Rim Fire still remains approximately 15 miles away from Yosemite Valley. That’s where tourists flock to see world-renowned landscapes and scenery like the El Capitan rock structures and the Half Dome.
According to Yosemite National Park spokesperson, Kari Cobb:
The area where it’s burning right now is mostly wilderness… There’s nothing in that location that would potentially be a safety issue.”
Media reports have suggested that the Rim Fire might have originated from people working at an illegal marijuana growing operation.
As local fire chief Todd McNeal stated that it was:
…highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing.
“We know it’s human caused. There was no lightning in the area.”
According to US Forest Service officials, the Rim Fire’s cause is still being investigated. However, the San Jose Mercury News is one of the media sources which have mentioned the mounting problems that California officials have had with marijuana operations in the area.
Written by: Douglas Cobb