The Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest continues to roar out of control after two weeks and two days. Firefighters have it almost half-contained (45%). Over one-quarter of the fire has burned in Yosemite National Park. The smoke has now reached legendary Yosemite Valley.
As of late in the day on September 1, the burned area encompasses 348.1 square miles (about a quarter million acres), making it the largest U.S. wildfire this year. It's more than five times the size of Washington, D.C.
Only six other fires in the 48 contiguous states have reached even the 100,000-acre level in 2013: three in Idaho, two in New Mexico, and one in Colorado. The Lime Hills Fire in Alaska was the entire nation's second largest fire of the year to date, but it burned only 80% of the acreage already lost in the Rim Fire.
Another record the Rim Fire has set: over 5,000 firefighters from 42 states and D.C. have been working on containing and suppressing this blaze. Less than half that number fought the "beast fire" near Sun Valley, Idaho, three weeks ago. They have constructed 96.7 miles of containment line, used 17.1 miles of roads as fire line, dug 139.9 miles of dozer line, and fought hard by hand alone to gain five miles of critical, otherwise unreachable, protection.
The Rim Fire makes up almost half of the total burned acreage in Southern California this year. It's the fourth largest recorded California wildfire in records that date back to 1932. All four have all occurred since 2003. Half a million acres have burned in the state this year--and the two months of punishing Santa Ana winds are just beginning.
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers environmental, health, and energy policy and issues. She has reported extensively on climate change, extreme weather disasters, including superstorm Sandy, the 2012-2013 drought, and the massive summer wildfires of the past decade. She also detailed events and policy at last fall's 18th UN climate change summit meeting in Doha, Qatar.
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