US wildfire spreads towards San Francisco water supply
AFPFirefighters reported progress battling a huge blaze on the edge of Yosemite National Park, but warned it remains an "extreme" threat as it nears the top US tourist destination and San Francisco's water supply.
August 27, 2013, 2:15 pm TWN
The Rim Fire, which began nine days ago, has grown to become the 13th largest in California's recorded history and has sparked the closure of one of the main roads into the spectacular natural beauty spot.
The fire has already crossed into the world-famous park, but it remains at least 15 miles from the Yosemite Valley, an area visited by millions of tourists each year looking to see stunning scenery, waterfalls and rock formations including Half Dome and El Capitan.
The inferno is also nearing the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the main source of fresh water for 2.6 million people living in the San Francisco Bay Area, some 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the west.
Local news media reported Monday that flames from the Rim Fire were a mere five miles away from the reservoir.
The fire "is expected to continue to exhibit very large fire growth due to extremely dry fuels, strong winds and inaccessible terrain," according to the latest update on the Inciweb firefighting information website.
"Rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior (are) hampering suppression efforts," it added.
The blaze has scorched 149,780 acres (60,614 hectares) and is 15 percent contained, up from 7 percent on Sunday, said Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Some 4,500 buildings remain threatened by the fire, which is being tackled by nearly 3,700 firefighters. Schools in several nearby areas remained closed Monday.
"Winds again today will pose a challenge with gusts of 26 miles per hour (42 kilometers per hour) out of the south, pushing the fire further to the northeast," said the official update.
Meanwhile, the park said in an update on its website, "most of Yosemite National Park is not affected by the fire and is relatively smoke-free. The northern part of the park .. has some smoke. Conditions may change if winds shift."