Rim Fire: Highway 120 entry to Yosemite closed; fire grows to 16,228 acres (video, map)

MAFFS 4  Rim Fire   19Aug13 1450

Blitzriver (via YouTube)

Aerial firefighting footage from the Rim Fire burning west of Yosemite National Park, taken Aug. 19 at 2:50 p.m.

UPDATE: Massive wildfire near Yosemite one of California's worst at 149,780 acres (map)

A wildfire burning west of Yosemite National Park has forced evacuations and the closure of Highway 120, blocking one of the key entryways to the popular tourist destination. 

The Rim Fire had grown to 16,228 acres as it burned into a fifth day Wednesday morning, and firefighters had only achieved 5 percent containment, according to a spokesperson for the interagency incident management team.

The fire threatened more than 2,000 structures, including homes, hotels and camp buildings, as it burned eastward on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. 

Communities along Ferretti Road were evacuated, along with Camp Towanga and the Spinning Wheel and Sawmill campgrounds.

Evacuation centers were open at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora and Greely Hill Community Center in Mariposa County, according to the latest information from InciWeb, the interagency command's website for wildfire updates. The evacuation center at Tiago High School has been closed.

Highway 120 remains closed, and there is no access to Yosemite along that route, said Michelle Puckett, the team PIO, adding that it was unclear how long before it could be reopened. 

Nearly 4 million people passed through Yosemite in 2012, making it one of the most-visited destinations among national parks and monuments.

As of Tuesday, the Rim Fire had already claimed seven structures, including two residences and five outbuildings, and the cost of the fire to that point was estimated at $1.7 million, according to information on InciWeb.

Because of the difficult terrain, firefighters were forced to use indirect tactics, such as lighting back fires to burn up fuel in advance of the main wildfire's progress, Puckett said.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the fire was among the nation's top firefighting priorities, the AP reports.

Fifty-one major uncontained wildfires are burning throughout the West, according to the center, including in California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 19,000 firefighters were fighting the fires.

Follow the Rim Fire using KPCC's FireTracker tool:

This story has been updated.

 

With contributions by Gosia Wozniacki/AP and Brian Frank

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