Satellite image of the Rim Fire, August 23, 2013
(The American Fire is also visible to the north)
|Location||Sierra Nevada, California, USA|
|Date(s)||August 17, 2013– October 24, 2013|
|Burned area||257,314 acres (104,131 ha)|
|Buildings destroyed||112, including 11 residences|
The Rim Fire was a wildfire in the central Sierra Nevada region, in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties of California in the United States. The fire started on August 17, 2013, during the 2013 California wildfire season. It was the third largest wildfire in California's history, having burned 257,314 acres (402.053 sq mi; 1,041.31 km2), and is the biggest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada. The fire was contained on Thursday, October 24, 2013. The fire was caused by a hunter's illegal fire that went out of control and was named for its proximity to the Rim of the World vista point in the Stanislaus National Forest. Eleven residences, three commercial buildings, and 98 outbuildings were destroyed in the fire.
The fire erupted on August 17, 2013 at 3:25pm in the Stanislaus National Forest east of Groveland when a hunter lost control of an illegal campfire. The hunter has not been publicly identified. Only 40 acres when it was discovered, it grew to 10,000 acres within 36 hours and 100,000 acres after four days. The rapid spread is attributed to five factors: a record-breaking drought, a heat wave, past fire suppression, population growth, and Forest Service budget cuts. It burned into back-country areas of Yosemite National Park. The park remained open, and Yosemite Valley was never in danger, although it was affected by heavy smoke at times.
The blaze was difficult to fight because of inaccessible terrain and erratic winds, forcing firefighters to be reactive instead of proactive. More than 5,000 firefighters – including more than 650 inmates who volunteered as part of California's Conservation Camp initiative – worked to contain the fire, which was described by a Forest Service spokesman as "a real tiger". At one point state officials asked residents to avoid social media, to stop exaggerated claims and rumors from spreading, and debunked a number of circulating stories.
A widespread heat wave and drought conditions helped to spread the fire and make it difficult to combat. Also contributing to the fire was a pre-1980s policy of suppressing small natural fires. The lack of those fires created nearly a century's worth of fuel to burn, resulting in a massive forest fire killing virtually all plant life in its path. Forest officials estimated "that almost 40% of the area inside the fire's boundary is nothing but charred land" - nearly 160 square miles out of the 400 square miles burned. They said this extent of destruction is "unprecedented" for historic Sierra Nevada fires. The extent of the fire, however, allows for new succession of tree species that require post-fire conditions to germinate; species that have not been around for quite some time will begin to appear.
Closures and evacuations
Forest closures were in effect for several areas. Some evacuation advisories were issued by Tuolumne and Mariposa counties. The Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120) was closed for a time. Highways 140 from Merced and 41 from Fresno remained open throughout the fire, providing access to the national park.
Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, a family camp operated by the city of Berkeley and established in 1922, was burned to the ground by the fire. Nearby Camp Tawonga suffered some damage including the loss of three buildings. Camp Mather, operated by the city of San Francisco, suffered minor damage, as did the San Jose Camp run by the city of San Jose. Privately owned Evergreen Lodge was undamaged.
State of emergency and federal funding
California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the city of San Francisco on August 23, after the fire caused damage to the power infrastructure serving the Bay Area, causing two out of the existing three hydroelectric power plants to shut down, and threatened the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, the main source of water of San Francisco, providing up to 85% of the city's supply and 2.6 million customers. On August 26, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission moved water away from Hetch Hetchy into downstream reservoirs located in San Mateo and Alameda Counties as a precautionary measure, but did not expect the fire to cause any disruption to the city's water supply. The fire advanced within a mile of Hetch Hetchy by Monday August 26 concerning O'Shaughnessy Dam officials due to ash falling in the water.
The cost of fighting the fire was estimated at $127.35 million as of October 24. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it would reimburse the state up to 75% of the eligible costs of fighting the fire through a grant for "managing, mitigating and controlling the fire".
Forest and park issues
The United States Forest Service made it their highest priority fire because it involved Yosemite National Park. Flames threatened the giant sequoias, some of the biggest and oldest living things on Earth.
Wildlife officials had to deal with displaced animals. Park officials set sprinklers to help protect nearby big trees. The Forest Service is studying effects on habitat. Biologists were concerned and watched animals in the burned out areas, including Western pond turtles that congregated in the small amount of water that didn't evaporate and a number of bald eagle nests.
Parts of the National Forest are used for grazing, and there was concern that hundreds of cattle could have been injured or killed. The blaze destroyed 12 of the 36 grazing areas in the forest, and displaced cattle were scattered over a wide area.
The fire also threatened the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest, one of California's main centers for forest fire research located a few miles from the northern edge of the Rim Fire near Pinecrest. The experimental forest was created in the 1920s and has since served as an open-air laboratory to research how the density of vegetation impacts the diffusion of wildfires and the resilience of forests.
In late 2013, a plan was considered to log about 30,000 acres of the Rim fire's destruction. The snag forest habitat, or habitat of forest-killed trees, is home to a wide variety of wildlife species, some endangered. Some scientists opposed the logging plan, contending that the removal of trees from this area would not only harm the generation of endangered species, it would also throw the equilibrium of the area into disarray, as the endangered species play a key role in maintaining the cycles of habitat, food, and energy in the area.
A certain natural frequency of forest fires keeps the ecological system in balance. Over the years humans have been suppressing fires in the area, which disturbs the natural fire regime and can cause cascading ecological effects.
- "Rim Fire". InciWeb. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Rim Fire". Fire Tracker. KPCC. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
- "Firefighters gain ground on still-growing Yosemite wildfire". CBS News. August 27, 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- DeLuca, Matthew (24 August 2013). "Emergency in San Francisco as wildfire threatens city's power grid". NBC News. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Rim Fire continues to burn
- Swaffer, Gar. "Firefighters gaining, but Rim Fire increases to 187,466 acres". Digital Journal.
- "Rim Fire Becomes Third-Largest Wildfire In California History". CBS Channel 13, Sacramento. 29 September 2013 (revised). Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- "California's fourth-largest wildfire fills Yosemite Valley with smoke on holiday weekend". NBC News. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- "Yosemite Wildfire Started By Hunter's Illegal Fire, U.S. Forest Service Announces". 5 September 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Rim of the World Vista - Stanislaus National Forest 37.821949, -120.039153
- "Wildfire Rages to Yosemite's Edge in Hot, Dry Weather". 23 August 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- California Department of Forestry
- Cone, Tracie (September 6, 2013). "USFS: Hunter caused huge wildfire near Yosemite". Yahoo! News. Associated Press.
- Klein, Karin (September 16, 2013). "What's happened to the hunter who sparked the Rim fire?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- Abrams, Lindsay. "The 5 Factors Fueling the Rim Fire".
- Foley, James A. "Rim Fire Continues to Threaten Yosemite National Park". Nature World News. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Fieldstadt, Elisha (September 1, 2013). "Rim Fire at 225,000 acres as Calif. officials search for cause of massive blaze - U.S. News". NBCNews.com. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- "California Inmates Help Battle Raging Yosemite Rim Fire". Huffington Post. 30 August 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Rawlings, Nate (31 August 2013). "California’s Prison Problems Won’t Extinguish Inmate Firefighters". Time. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Carroll, Rory (Tuesday 27 August 2013 13.29 EDT). "California officials ask residents to avoid social media for Rim fire updates". The Guadian. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Cone, Tracie (September 19, 2013). "Nearly 40 Percent of Rim Fire Land a Moonscape". ABC News. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- "As Rim Fire landscape shows signs of new life, scientists begin to assess forest management". Washington Post. Associated Press. September 27, 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- Lopez, Robert J. (August 27, 2013). "Spot fires, intense flames rage as crews fight Yosemite Rim blaze". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- "Smoke from CA wildfires clears over NV". Associated Press (KRNV-DT Reno). August 25, 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Fernandez, Lisa (August 27, 2013). "Campers Mourn Loss of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp; Camp Tawonga Saves Torah". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- "Rim Fire burns three buildings at Camp Tawonga". J Weekly. August 29, 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- "Camp Mather Update". San Francisco Recreation and Parks. August 30, 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- "Yosemite Rim Fire slows but threatens water supply, burns Bay Area camps". San Jose Mercury News. August 26, 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- "Evergreen Lodge- reopening September 10". Evergreen Lodge Yosemite. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- Marcum, Diana; Schaefer, Samantha; Serna, Joseph (August 26, 2013). "Crews get first break against Rim fire". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Neuman, Scott (24 August 2013). "Yosemite Fire Called One Of Largest In Recent California History". NPR. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- DeLuca, Matthew (Aug 23, 2013). "Emergency in San Francisco as wildfire threatens city's power grid". NBC News. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Wozniacka, Gosia (24 August 2013). "Yosemite fire brings SF utility emergency". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- Schwirtz, Michael (24 August 2013). "Risk at Coast From Fire at Yosemite". New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- Roberts, Chris (26 August 2013). "Rim Fire getting closer to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir as more drinking water sent to Bay Area". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- "Officials say Yosemite fire unlikely to cause disruptions at SF Bay area’s chief water source". The Washington Post. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Elan Head. "Unmanned future" Vertical Magazine, November 7, 2013. Accessed: November 21, 2013.
- Elan Head. "Predator aircraft makes history in Rim Fire" Vertical Magazine, September 1, 2013. Accessed: 11 December 2013.
- Serna, Joseph (September 5, 2013). "Rim fire started by a hunter's illegal fire, Forest Service says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Schaefer, Samantha; Marcum, Diana (August 26, 2013). "Yosemite fire burns 230 square miles; FEMA to help cover costs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Weise, Elizabeth (August 26, 2013). "Yosemite fire is 'highest priority' in nation". USA TODAY. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Costello, Tom; Jarrett, Tracy (Aug 25, 2013). "Raging California wildfire threatens more of Yosemite". NBC News. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Ehrenfreund, Max (Tuesday, August 27). "Fighting Rim Fire at Yosemite, officials protect sequoias, turtles". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- "Hundreds of California cattle feared hurt, dead as massive Rim Fire scorches region". NBC News. September 2, 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Kaminsky, Jonathan (29 August 2013). "Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest Could Be Threatened By California Wildfire". Huffington Post. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Rodman, Kirsten (31 August 2013). "Rim Fire Endangers Experimental Forest". AccuWeather. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- /"Rim Fire logging plan poses major threat to Sierra wildlife". Mantecca Bulletin. January 21, 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Syphard, Alexandra D. (July 2007). "HUMAN INFLUENCE ON CALIFORNIA FIRE REGIMES". Ecological Applications. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
Media related to Rim Fire (2013) at Wikimedia Commons