FRESNO, California, August 24, 2013 (AP) — A wildfire raging out of control has grown to nearly 200 square miles and spread into Yosemite National Park at the height of the summer season for one of California’s most popular tourist destinations.
While it has closed some backcountry hiking, it was not threatening the Yosemite Valley, home to such iconic sights as the Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations and Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls.
But in an unusual move, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Francisco 150 miles away because of the threat to the city’s utilities.
The wildfire had already done some damage and threatened more to the lines and stations that pipe power to San Francisco, so Mr. Brown, who had declared an emergency for the fire area earlier in the week, extended it to the city.
San Francisco also gets 85 percent of its water from the Yosemite-area Hetch Hetchy Reservoir that is about 4 miles from the fire, though that had yet to be affected. But it was forced to shut down two of its three hydroelectric power stations in the area.
The city has so far been able to buy power and use existing supplies, but further disruptions or damage could have an effect, according to city power officials and the governor’s statement.
The declaration frees financing and resources to help San Francisco and makes it eligible for more federal funds to help with power shortages or water problems.
The weeklong blaze on the timbered slopes of the Western Sierra Nevada has spread to 196 square miles and was only 5 percent contained. It continued to grow in several directions, although “most of the fire activity is pushing to the east right into Yosemite,” a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Daniel Berlant, said.
Smoke blowing across the Sierra into Nevada forced officials in several counties to cancel outdoor school activities and issue health advisories, especially for people with respiratory problems.
The authorities urged more evacuations in nearby communities where thousands have already been forced out by flames.
The fire was threatening about 5,500 residences, according to the United States Forest Service. The blaze has destroyed four homes and 12 outbuildings in several different areas. More than 2,000 firefighters were on the lines, and one sustained a heat-related injury. [more]