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Yosemite National Park Rim Fire Rages On, Endangers San Francisco Water Supply

Update Date: Aug 26, 2013 09:55 PM EDT
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In the past nine days since Yosemite National Park in Northern California has been target by a Rim Fire, almost 150,000 acres have burned and the blaze has grown to the 13th largest fire in California's history. Over 3,000 firefighters have jumped in to help with the massive fire.

The blaze now threatens San Francisco, 130 miles to its west as it burns closer to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies 85 percent of the city's drinking water. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Francisco over the weekend.

 "The challenges that the Rim Fire poses for firefighters, and the citizens of San Francisco, are exponentially greater than [with] a typical wilderness fire," says firefighting expert Char Miller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. "There can be no mistakes; there is no room for error. The fire ought to make it crystal clear to San Franciscans how critical the Sierras are to their daily life."

The Rim Fire is also leaving economic concerns. About 20,000 acres are burning in Yosemite, which pumps about $400 million into the economy. A major attraction are the majestic groves of 2,000-year-old Sequoia trees. Crews are hosing them down to weaken the intensity of the encroaching blaze.

"A low intensity burn around the bases won't be bad," said Yosemite superintendent Don Neubacher, according to CBS News. "Some of the seedlings need fire to regenerate, so if we can keep it to low intensity burns, it can actually help the sequoias."

He added: "We are going to use the fire to potentially enhance the groves. And the only thing we have to ensure is that we don't get a high intensity catastrophic fire."

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