The Rim Fire threatening Yosemite National Park continued to grow overnight, burning 133,000 acres in and around the iconic park, officials said Sunday. The blaze is now being called the 15th largest in California history. It has burned 210 square miles and is now up to 7 percent contained, according to The Los Angeles Times on Aug. 25. But officials still warn they continue to deal with dry conditions and winds that are helping the fire spread so rapidly.
The fast-moving blaze spread through the pristine wilderness throughout all of last week, and has doubled in size since just Thursday. The wildfire is forcing evacuations, shutting down the main highway to the famed national park and even damaged the Hetch Hetchy reservoir's water and power system that supplies San Francisco.
The firefighters' top priority right now is Tuolumne City which lies on the northwestern edge of the blaze. The community has 1,600 homes and is directly in the line of fire, said an official Sunday.
As California suffers from a hot and dry season, as well as the rugged and hard-to-reach terrain, the inferno is creating a "crown fire".
Long, intense flames are burning across the tree tops, skipping through the forest land even faster than a wildfire that typically creeps along near to the ground.
Tuolumne City and Ponderosa Hills have a reported combined population of about 2,000 people, and remain under voluntary evacuation orders. Parts of Groveland were evacuated Friday.
Johnny Miller, a Cal Fire spokesman, said about their efforts, "If you can't stop a fire, you try to divert it".
The fire grew 7 square miles in area overnight, as firefighters gained little ground in slowing the blaze, according to Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Berlant said 23 structures have been destroyed so far, though officials have not determined whether they were homes or rural outbuildings. The fire continues to threaten about 5,500 other structures, however.
Luckily only one firefighter has been injured to date, said to have suffered heat exhaustion.
Winds are reported to be gusting to 50 mph on the Sierra mountain ridges, as the flames jump from treetop to treetop, according to KCBS-5 in San Francisco Sunday afternoon.
Fire investigators are trying to determine how this wildfire started on Aug. 17, days before lightning strikes spawned dozens of smaller fires in the area.
One other area of concern are the giant Sequoia trees located on the western slopes of the Sierras.
The nearby Black Oak Casino's slot machines remain quiet in Tuolumne City, as emergency workers took over nearly all of the resort hotel's 148 rooms.
"The casino is empty", said employee Jessie Dean. "Technically, the casino is open but there’s nobody there".