News / USA

Yosemite Blaze Rages Closer to Reservoir for San Francisco

A fire truck drives past burning trees as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California,  Aug. 26, 2013
A fire truck drives past burning trees as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California, Aug. 26, 2013
Reuters
One of the largest California wildfires in decades roared largely unchecked for a 10th day through forests in and around Yosemite National Park on Monday and threatened a reservoir that supplies most of San Francisco's water.
 
As of midday, the eastern flank of the so-called Rim Fire had burned to within a mile of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the Tuolumne River, raising concerns about the possibility of ash and soot contaminating the sprawling artificial lake.
 
On Saturday, flames had been no closer than four miles from the reservoir, which supplies 85 percent of the water consumed by 2.6 million people in San Francisco and several communities in three adjacent counties about 200 miles (320 km) to the west.
 
Roughly 300 million gallons of water is carried to the San Francisco Bay area daily through tunnels and an aqueduct, and reservoir samples show water quality has remained healthy since the fire began on Aug. 17, according to a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
 
“There's no evidence of a change in the water quality, and there's no change in our ability to deliver that water to all of our customers,” said the spokeswoman, Suzanne Gautier.
 
If fallout from the blaze were to foul the Hetch Hetchy, its water could be diverted to a smaller Bay Area reservoir for filtration at a local treatment plant before delivery to customers, she said.
 
The Rim Fire, named for a Stanislaus National Forest lookout point called Rim of the World, has already damaged two of the three hydropower generating stations linked to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir that supply electricity for all of San Francisco's public facilities, such as hospitals and firehouses.
 
Gautier said the city for now was continuing to draw on reserve power stored for emergencies and purchasing additional electricity on the open market to make up for the difference.
 
Inmate firefighters walk along Highway 120 after a burnout operation as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California, Aug. 25, 2013.Inmate firefighters walk along Highway 120 after a burnout operation as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California, Aug. 25, 2013.
x
Inmate firefighters walk along Highway 120 after a burnout operation as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California, Aug. 25, 2013.
Inmate firefighters walk along Highway 120 after a burnout operation as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California, Aug. 25, 2013.
Despite threats to water and power, firefighters have made headway against the blaze, although rugged terrain and the fire's remote location were complicating efforts to subdue the flames, fire managers said.
 
“There are places where they can't get in,” said Mike Ferris, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. “It's just inaccessible.”
 
As of Monday morning, fire crews working with hand tools and backed by bulldozers and water-dropping helicopters had carved containment lines around 15 percent of the blaze's perimeter, more than double Sunday's figure, though the fire's footprint continued to grow.
 
Over 200 Square Miles Scorched
 
The blaze in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains was among the fastest-moving of some 50 large wildfires raging across the drought-parched U.S. West. The fires have strained resources and prompted fire managers to open talks with Pentagon commanders and Canadian officials about possible reinforcements.
 
According to the latest estimates, the Rim Fire has charred nearly 150,000 acres (60,703 hectares) or 234 square miles - the size of the city of Chicago - most of that in the Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite.
 
That ranks the blaze as the largest wildfire in California since August 2009, when the so-called Station Fire ravaged nearly 145,000 acres of the Angeles National Park north of Los Angeles, and one of the 20 biggest in state history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
 
By Monday morning, nearly 22,000 acres (8,903 hectares) within Yosemite had burned, forcing the closure of the main road leading into the park from the San Francisco Bay area and prompting the evacuation of 74 campsites in the park's White Wolf area, officials said.
 
But the majority of the 1,200-square-mile Yosemite National Park, including the Yosemite Valley area famous for its towering rock formations, waterfalls, meadows and pine forests, remained open to the public.
 


The fire was not believed to pose a threat to the concrete structure of the 90-year-old O'Shaughnessy Dam, which forms the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, or of the granite basin it was built into, Gautier said.
 
But in addition to the immediate potential fallout of ash and soot, Hetch Hetchy's water could be left vulnerable to heavy runoff of debris and topsoil stripped of vegetation by the blaze and washed into the reservoir by winter rains, she said.
 
“When you burn down everything, you've got a moonscape out there when floods can contaminate the water,” Governor Jerry Brown said during a visit to the fire zone on Monday. He declared a state of emergency for San Francisco on Friday due to threats to the city's water supply.
 
The blaze has destroyed about a dozen homes and 1,000 outbuildings, and some 4,500 additional dwellings remained threatened. Residents in the tiny town of Tuolumne and other communities near the western edge of the park were evacuated, but evacuation orders have been lifted for the enclaves of Pine Mountain Lake and Buck Meadows.
 
The cause of the wildfire remained under investigation. More than 3,700 firefighters have been assigned to the blaze, which was burning over steep terrain through scrub, oak and pine, stoked by stiff winds, high temperatures and low humidity.

You May Like

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid