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Rim fire: Crews plan backfires in Yosemite to help stop the blaze

Rim fire: Crews plan backfires in Yosemite to help stop the blaze
Capt. Russell Mitchell with the Yosemite Fire Department scrambles down a hill next to California 120 on Tuesday. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Firefighters struggling to stop the massive Rim fire were planning to build and strengthen containment lines and conduct backfiring operations to slow the blaze as it rages farther into Yosemite National Park, fire officials said Tuesday night.

The blaze, which has been burning for 11 days, has scorched 184,000 acres of brush and timber and was 20% contained, fire officials said.

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Officials with the U.S. Forest Service said ground crews would work through the night to build containment lines on the northern flank of the fire.

Officials said crews on the southeast flank in Yosemite were planning to conduct extensive backfires, a dangerous tactic in which firefighters burn vegetation inside a fire line to help contain a rapidly spreading blaze.

The blaze has destroyed 111 buildings, including 31 homes, and was the seventh-largest fire in California history. The fire was spewing out huge clouds of smoke that drifted into Nevada. The blaze had spread across 281 square miles.

The Rim fire, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant, was "burning its way into the record books."

A number of structures were lost in the Tuolumne Berkeley Family Camp, which includes three commercial properties and 85 tent cabins and outbuildings, the Forest Service said.

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