Rim fire in and around Yosemite almost third largest in state history

The massive Rim fire is on its way to becoming the state’s third largest in history as it burns into Yosemite National Park.

At 235,841 acres, or roughly 368 square miles, the Rim fire was 75% contained Tuesday and fewer than 4,400 acres from moving from fourth to third place on the list of California’s largest wildfires.

The No. 3 spot belongs to the Zaca fire, which in July 2007 burned 375 square miles -- or about 240,207 acres -- in Santa Barbara County. The fire was ignited by sparks from grinding equipment being used to repair a water pipe near Los Olivos, according to Times archives.

Six days after the Rim fire broke out in the middle of the Northern California forest, Twain Harte Fire and Rescue Chief Todd McNeal told a community meeting that it was “highly suspected” that an illegal marijuana growing operation had sparked the blaze.

McNeal made the comment during his Aug. 23 talk, a video of which has been posted on YouTube, adding that the fire started in a section of the Stanislaus National Forest inaccessible by foot or vehicle.


U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials will say only that the cause of the Rim fire is under investigation.

About 5,000 firefighters are now battling the blaze, which started Aug. 17 and has destroyed 111 structures, 11 of them residential.

Battling the blaze, the largest in California this year, has cost $60 million in state and federal funds, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Trevor Augustino said. Full containment is not expected until Sept. 20.

Six other fires are burning in California, down from about a dozen last week, with more than 8,000 firefighting personnel deployed across the state, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said. There has been an increase in fire activity in recent weeks, he added, because of dry conditions, gusty winds and dry lightning that sparked several hundred fires.


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