Wildfire burns out of control near Yosemite
August 22, 2013
FRESNO, Calif. — An out-of-control forest fire threatening about 2,500 structures near Yosemite National Park was one of more than 50 active, large wildfires dotting the western U.S. on Wednesday.
The remote blaze in Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite grew to more than 25 square miles and was only 5 percent contained, threatening homes, hotels and camp buildings.
The fire has led to the voluntary evacuation of the private gated summer community of Pine Mountain Lake, which has a population of 2,800, as well as several organized camps, at least two campgrounds and dozens of other private homes.
Two residences and seven outbuildings have been destroyed.
The fire also caused the closure of a 4-mile stretch of State Route 120, one of the gateways into Yosemite on the west side. Park officials said the park remains open to visitors and can be accessed via state Routes 140 and 4.
"This is typically a very busy time for us until Labor Day, so it's definitely affecting business not having the traffic come through to Yosemite," said Britney Sorsdahl, a manager at the Iron Door Saloon and Grill in Groveland, a community of about 600 about five miles from the fire.
The fire was among the nation's top firefighting priorities, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
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.
But the U.S. Forest Service, the nation's top wildfire-fighting agency, said Wednesday that it is running out of money to fight wildfires and is diverting $600 million from timber, recreation and other areas to fill the gap. The agency said it had spent $967 million so far this year and was down to $50 million — typically enough to pay for just a few days of fighting fires when the nation is at its top wildfire preparedness level, which went into effect Tuesday.
There have been more than 32,000 fires this year that have burned more than 5,300 square miles.