Rim fire burning into Yosemite National Forest now about 80% contained, officials have continued drawing down the number of firefighters pushing back against the flames.
About 3,975 firefighters were fighting the Rim fire Wednesday, compared with a peak of more than 5,100, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire has burned more than 237,300 acres, or about 370 square miles.
The fire started Aug. 17 in a remote section of the Stanislaus National Forest. Crews Wednesday night continued burning operations that cut off the fire’s fuel.
The fire's cause remains under investigation. Jerry Snyder, a Forest Service official, told The Times on Wednesday that it was likely not caused by an illegal marijuana farm, despite what a local fire chief had told residents days after the fire broke out.
"That was only one of many rumors," Snyder said.
The rumor that marijuana growers may have been involved began when Twain Harte Fire and Rescue Chief Todd McNeal told a community meeting that the blaze was definitely human-caused.
On Aug. 23, McNeal said the fire started in a section of the Stanislaus National Forest that is inaccessible by foot or vehicle, and that it was "highly suspected" that an illegal "marijuana-grow type of thing" had somehow sparked the blaze.
But Snyder said investigators have so far not found any evidence that marijuana was grown in the area where the fire probably started.
There would also have been no real access for illegal growers, Snyder said, and there was no water source evident.
"Most of these gardens, they need access, ... they need to be able to get in there ... and there are no roads in this area," Snyder said. "You need a water source. ... This fire started considerably above the river."
The Rim fire has destroyed 111 buildings, including 11 residences. It has so far cost $72 million to fight.