Wildfire grows to California’s 4th largest as crews make progress

Wildfire grows to California’s 4th largest as crews make progress

CALIFORNIA - A large California wildfire that has blackened a swath of Yosemite National Park backcountry grew to the fourth largest in modern state history even as fire crews managed to slow the spread of the flames over the weekend, officials said on Sunday.

The Rim Fire had charred nearly 223,000 acres (89,000 hectares) by Sunday, mostly in the Stanislaus National Forest that spreads out from Yosemite's western edge. The blaze has blackened about 6 per cent of Yosemite's wilder backcountry.

It edged past the 1932 Matilija wildfire in Ventura County to become the fourth-largest California wildfire on record, according to figures from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Five of the state's seven largest fires in recorded history have occurred since 2007, according to those figures. T

he fire, whose footprint now exceeds the area of Dallas, sent heavy smoke on Saturday into the Yosemite Valley, an area famed for towering granite rock formations, waterfalls and pine forests. It obscured views of popular landmarks on a holiday weekend at the end of the summer tourist season.

Fire officials said smoky conditions in the park had largely cleared after a shift in winds on Sunday afternoon. There were no further road closures within Yosemite and containment lines held steady at 40 per cent.

"We have been able to hold the line. It's just trying to figure out how to wrap this thing up and put a bow around it,"said fire incident spokeswoman Leslie Auriemmo, adding there were no fresh closures in the park.

Although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, a fire official with knowledge of the containment efforts told a community meeting in nearby Twain Harte last week that the blaze may have been started in an illicit marijuana-growing operation.

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