Monster Yosemite blaze sparked by hunter's campfire
By Laila Kearney ,ReutersSAN FRANCISCO -- Amonster blaze that has blackened an area larger than Dallas in the rugged northern California forests in and around Yosemite National Park started from an illegal campfire a hunter built and let grow out of control, fire managers said on Thursday.
September 7, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The precise origins of the so-called Rim Fire, which erupted nearly three weeks ago in the Stanislaus National Forest west of Yosemite, remained under investigation, and no arrests have been made, the U.S. Forest Service said.
But the campfire that sparked the conflagration, now the fourth-largest California blaze on record, was built in defiance of Forest Service restrictions imposed at the time due to dangerously hot, dry conditions in the area, officials said.
Whether the hunter deemed to be the culprit will face criminal charges depends on a variety of factors, including the degree of carelessness or neglect determined by investigators, said Forest Service spokesman Ray Mooney.
Beyond saying the fire began “when a hunter allowed an illegal fire to escape,” authorities declined to comment on evidence linking the hunter to the blaze. The individual has not been publicly identified.
The Rim Fire, named for a popular local lookout spot called Rim of the World, has left more than 237,000 acres (370 square miles) of timber and chaparral charred, since it erupted Aug. 17 in an area known as Jawbone Ridge in a remote corner of the national forest.
Firefighting costs there have run up to US$81 million to date, with some 5,000 personnel assigned to battle the blaze at its peak.
With a footprint bigger than the land mass of Dallas, Texas, the blaze ranks as the largest of dozens of wildfires that have raged across several states in the drought-parched West this year, straining U.S. firefighting resources.