Smoke from the fast-burning Rim fire reached Yosemite Valley on Saturday, hampering crews’ work to contain it. The wildfire started two weeks ago and has fast become one of the largest fires in California history.
Despite the smoke, the Valley’s campgrounds remained full as people navigated through the thick blanket and dealt with the burning smell that swept through the area.
Visitors were cautioned to stay inside or at least scale back their recreation plans as a health precaution, reports ABC News. The smell and smoke are expected to stick around the area until at least Monday.
The Rim fire’s smoke brought additional problems on Saturday as firefighting aircraft were grounded most of the morning from low visibility.
As crews were hampered, the Rim fire grew to 343 square miles, including brush, oaks, pines, and 11 homes. The area is larger than San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose combined.
Of that number 94 square miles were inside Yosemite National Park. Containment efforts continued to be positive compared to last week. However, USA Today notes that forecasts for higher temperatures caused officials to extend the expected containment date from September 10 to September 20.
More than 4,500 firefighters are working to stop the fire’s progress. Their work appears to be paying off, as containment was reported to be 35 percent. The Rim fire has so far cost $47 million and is listed as the fifth-largest California wildfire on record.
While air operations were paused on Saturday morning, US Forest Service spokesman Mark Healey announced late Saturday afternoon, “Air operations are going full-blast to bring this fire under control.” Along with water and retardant drops, crews were also setting backfires to try and starve the fire of its fuel.
The cause of the Rim fire is still under investigation. It is expected to have a small impact on Yosemite’s Labor Day business. However, park spokesman Scott Gediman stated that they have had “minimal cancellations.”
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