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California wildfire threatens life from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The "Rim Fire" in California has scorched more than 130,000 acres. Firefighters are scrambling in Northern California in order to minimize the destruction at Yosemite National Park, home to countless ancient redwood trees. The fast-moving blaze has the potential to drastically affect life in cities as far away as San Francisco and Reno, Nevada.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - High winds could very well fuel the fire into an even more incendiary situation. "That's a real watch-out situation for our firefighters when they see that kind of activity, they know that the wind could actually move that fire right back on them," U.S. Fire Service spokesman Dick Fleishman said.

Flames from the fire had already spread into a corner of Yosemite National Park on Sunday. While the flames were far away enough from tourists, the fire was only a few miles away from a reservoir that supplies hydro electricity and 85 percent of the water supply to the city of San Francisco, nearly 180 miles away.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the city this past weekend. The Rim fire is believed to be one of the biggest in California's history. Smoke from the fire has already drifted across state lines into Reno, Nevada and has led to the cancellation of several outdoor events.

Firefighters are battling to save the communities of Tuolumne City, Twain Harte and Long Barne near the northern edge of the blaze. In the meantime, Yosemite Park employees have cleared brush and set sprinklers in an attempt to protect two groves of giant sequoia trees, among the oldest, largest living things on earth.

"All of the plants and trees in Yosemite are important, but the giant sequoias are incredibly important both for what they are and as symbols of the National Park System," park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

The U.S. Forest Service assures the public that protecting the sequoias was a contingency plan, saying that the trees were not in imminent danger. The Forest Service does not expect the fire to reach the sequoia grove, which is six to eight miles away.

At least 2,600 firefighters and half a dozen aircraft were battling the blaze, which began on August 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest.

"We are making progress but unfortunately the steep terrain definitely has posed a major challenge," Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Firefighters say that about 4,500 structures are threatened by the fire. Twenty-three structures have been destroyed, although it's not yet known if they were homes or rural out buildings.

Brown warned that the fire had damaged the electrical infrastructure serving the city, and forced the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to shut down power lines. There have been no reports of blackouts in San Francisco.

"Firefighters are still working with the same difficult situation, and they're really taking every opportunity they can to take hold of this fire," Ashley Taylor, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service said.

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