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Rim fire: Bar near Yosemite once again assumes community role

GROVELAND, Calif. -- The Iron Door Saloon was open Friday, because it's always open: Christmas or fires.

Outside, above the street sign circa 1852, the smoke from the Rim fire billowed three times higher than the tallest peak in nearby Yosemite National Park.

The 20 locals at the bar, and just about anyone else in town, could tell you that that cloud was a pyrocumulonimbus formed by heat. In the six days that the out-of-control Rim fire has been licking at this town of 3,000, the people here have learned a lot about clouds and fire.

PHOTOS: Rim fire rages near Yosemite

They passed around fire incident maps, pointing out their houses and ranches, many of them inside the perimeter lines. They joked about putting together a blue grass band to make up for the venerable Strawberry Music Festival that won't happen next weekend because the festival site is in the path of the fire, which by Friday had grown to more than 105,000 acres and destroyed nine structures.

But mostly, they worried about their friends.

"You're not going to find anyone who doesn't know at least one person on the fire," said Corinna Loh, second-generation Iron Door owner. "There's not many jobs in the country and one of them is firefighter."

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday as the wildfire spread in two directions. The fire was just 2% contained as of Friday afternoon, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Wildfires are a part of summer in these parts, but no one has seen anything like this since 1987, when all of the region seemed to be burning and four firefighters were killed.

During that blaze, Loh's mother, Bettike Barsoti, sent her children to the Bay Area and kept the bar open -- just like Loh did this week.

During the '87 fire, people evacuated from their homes kept their pets at the saloon.

"It’s brick walls and an iron door. They say in the old days it had a sod roof and they would close the doors and ride it out," Loh said.

"The houses are one thing," she added. "But just, please, let the firefighters be all right."


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