Rim Fire: Massive wildfire near Yosemite one of California's worst at 160,980 acres (map)

Rim Fire Continues To Burn Near Yosemite National Park

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Flames from the Rim Fire consume trees on August 25, 2013 near Groveland, California. The Rim Fire continues to burn out of control and threatens 4,500 homes outside of Yosemite National Park. Over 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze that has entered a section of Yosemite National Park and is currently 15 percent contained.

Crews made some progress Sunday night fighting the wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park, which has grown to become one of the largest in the state's history. The fire has now burned 160,980 acres and continues to threaten several towns, San Francisco's water supply, and historic giant sequoias. Crews managed to increase containment from 7 percent to 15 percent overnight Sunday, but that number only jumped to 20 percent Monday. 

Map | Fire Stats

Highlights

Update: 6:55 p.m.: The Rim Fire has grown to 160,980 acres with 20 percent containment, reports Cal Fire. 

Gary Burgin, who runs Sierra Nevada Adventure Company in Sonora, said crews are shopping at his store to buy items they need to fight the fire, which is about 15 miles away. But customers who normally buy camping items are ditching plans because of the fire. 

RELATED: How much of a dent will Rim Fire put in Labor Day activity?

A mandatory evacuation is still in place for those north of Old Yosemite Road; Highway 120 remains closed to all inbound and outbound Yosemite National Park traffic to Crane Flat Campground. 

The blaze that began August 17 is shaping up to be one of the top ten largest to ever hit Yosemite National Park. 

RELATED: 10 largest fires in Yosemite history — Rim Fire makes list (maps)

Updated 8:01 a.m.: Officials say fire crews made progress overnight against a large wildfire threatening San Francisco's water supply, several towns near Yosemite National Park and historic giant sequoias.

Stanislaus National Forest spokesman Jerry Snyder said containment of the Rim Fire was at 15 percent on Monday morning, up from 7 percent the previous night.

The fire did continue to grow, however, and is now 234 square miles in size.

Snyder said crews are being helped by the fire's movement into less forested areas and cooler temperatures caused at least in part by the shadow cast by the large plume of smoke from the blaze.

About 4,500 structures and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of San Francisco's famously pure drinking water, remain under threat.

- Associated Press

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RELATED: How much of a dent will Rim Fire put in Labor Day activity?

6:57 a.m.: Hundreds of firefighters were digging trenches, clearing brush and starting back blazes to keep a wildfire raging north of Yosemite National Park out of several mountain hamlets.

Inaccessible terrain, strong winds and bone-dry conditions have hampered their efforts to contain the Rim Fire, which began Aug. 17 and has grown to become one of the biggest in California history.

Firefighters were hoping to advance on the flames Monday but strong winds were threatening to push the blaze closer to Tuolumne City and nearby communities.

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"This fire has continued to pose every challenge that there can be on a fire...," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It's a very difficult firefight."

The fire has consumed nearly 225 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at just 7 percent.

RELATED: Hearty giant sequoias threatened by 'unusually hot' Rim Fire

It continues burning in the remote wilderness area of Yosemite and is edging closer to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of San Francisco's famously pure drinking water, park spokesman Tom Medema said.

Despite ash falling like snowflakes on the reservoir and a thick haze of smoke limiting visibility to 100 feet, the quality of the water piped to the city 150 miles away is still good, say officials with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The city's hydroelectric power generated by the system has been interrupted by the fire, forcing the utility to spend $600,000 buying power on the open market.

Park employees are continuing their efforts to protect two groves of giant sequoias that are unique to the region by cutting brush and setting sprinklers, Medema said.

On Sunday, crews worked furiously to hold a line near Ponderosa Hills and Twain Hart, miles ahead of the blaze. But officials warned that the fire was so hot it could send sparks more than a mile and a half out that could start new hot spots.

"We're facing difficult conditions and extremely challenging weather," said Bjorn Frederickson, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The blaze sweeping across steep, rugged river canyons has rapidly expanded, thanks in part to extremely dry conditions caused by a lack of snow and rainfall this year. Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire, which began days before lightning storms swept through the region and sparked other, smaller blazes.

The fire is the most critical of a dozen burning across California, officials say. More than 12 helicopters and a half-dozen fixed wing tankers are dropping water and retardant from the air, and 2,800 firefighters are on the ground.

Statewide, more than 8,300 firefighters are battling nearly 400 square miles of fires. Many air districts have issued health advisories as smoke settles over Northern California. While Yosemite Valley is clear, the Lake Tahoe basin is thick with smoke, and many outdoor activities have been canceled in Reno, Nev.

The U.S. Forest Service says about 4,500 structures are threatened by the Rim Fire. Berlant said 23 structures were destroyed, though officials have not determined whether they were homes or rural outbuildings.

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View Rim Fire in a larger map | Perimeter updated 8/24/13 | Source: GeoMAC

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With contributions by Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff and Tracie Cone

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