The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in California history, the Associated Press reported.
These were key developments as of Sunday morning:
- National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis visited the fire and told the Los Angeles Times that the Rim Fire is one example of what is to be expected across the West as climate change, drought and decades of fire suppression leave forests dried-out, overloaded with fuel and more vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires.
"It is a fire that's demonstrating the challenges that we in the land-management business are facing with climate change," he said. "A legacy of fire suppression in these forests and, recently, a reduction in our fire funding is all resulting in these huge fires that are incredibly difficult to control and very expensive."
- The San Jose Mercury News reported that smoke from the fire has darkened the sky over tourist-favorite Yosemite Valley for the first time, obscuring landmark views and forcing vacationers indoors.
"I'm in Yosemite Valley right now, and I cannot see the cliffs around me," Kari Cobb, a park spokeswoman, told the newspaper. "The wind has shifted, and smoke is impacting the entire park. We have been lucky until now."
- Reuters news service reported that a cluster of controlled fire and tree-thinning projects approved by forestry officials but never funded might have slowed the progress of the massive Rim Fire in California. The reductions in funding for fire prevention efforts by Congress in recent years, coupled with stringent air quality standards that limit the timeframe for such burns, have hampered efforts to carry them out on a larger scale, Reuters reported.
- Fox 40 in Sacramento, meanwhile, reported that one authority has speculated that an illegal pot growing operation may have started the fire.
"We know it's human [because] there was no lightning in the area, but we don't know the exact cause," Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeil told Fox 40. "We highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana grow-type thing," McNeil told the TV station. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Associated Press Sunday that the two-week-old Rim Fire grew to 348 square miles Saturday. A 1932 blaze that scorched 344 square miles in Ventura County previously stood as the state's fourth-largest wildfire.
A 427-square-mile fire in San Diego County that killed 14 people a decade ago tops the list.
Although the current wildfire still is growing, fire officials say it was 40 percent contained as of Sunday, up from 35 percent a day earlier.
View a map of the Rim Fire perimeter:
Follow the updates on the fire using KPCC's FireTracker tool: