News

Yosemite fire reaches 80 percent containment

Yosemite fire reaches 80 percent containment

In this photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, fire crew members stand watch near a controlled burn operation as they release a very pistol, as they fight the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park in California, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. The massive wildfire is now 75 percent contained according to a state fire spokesman. Photo: Associated Press/U.S. Forest Service/Mike McMillan

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Crews have pushed forward with building containment lines around the wildfire in and around Yosemite National Park as authorities lift evacuation orders and advisories for several Sierra Nevada communities once threatened by the massive blaze.

Officials said they still are investigating the cause of the fire, which started 18 days ago in an isolated area of the Stanislaus National Forest and has burned nearly 370 square miles — the fourth biggest recorded wildfire in California.

With higher humidity and lower temperatures, the fire reached 80 percent containment, prompting the sheriff’s offices in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties to lift evacuation advisories for communities with several thousand structures in the fire’s path.

Officials said 111 structures, including 11 homes, have been destroyed. More than 4,300 firefighters are still battling the blaze.

Although no cause has been announced, one local fire chief speculated the fire might have ignited in an illegal marijuana grow.

Chief Todd McNeal of the Twain Harte Fire Department told a community group recently that there was no lightning in the area, so the fire must have been caused by humans.

“We don’t know the exact cause,” he said in a talk that was posted Aug. 23 on YouTube. “Highly suspect it might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing, but it doesn’t really matter at this point.”

The video was first reported Saturday by the San Jose Mercury News.

Officials overseeing the fire suppression effort would not comment on the statement and would only say that the cause is still under investigation.

“There has been some progress but there are no additional details at this time,” said Rena Escobedo, a spokeswoman with the Rim Fire incident command team. The U.S. Forest Service is leading the investigation.

McNeal could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Whether a marijuana grow or something else was the cause of the fire will take a long time to determine, said Doug Allen, a retired division chief in charge of law enforcement for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in Southern California.

Allen said investigators generally follow char marks on trees and rocks to help find the fire’s point of origin, then mark off the territory into grids that are searched for clues. A lightning strike, for example, might have melted sand into glass.

“Everything will have carbon stains that will tell them which direction it came from,” Allen said. “You won’t find the point of origin on every fire. Maybe a bulldozer has driven over where it started and you’re out of luck.”

Illegal marijuana grows in national parks and forests have tormented federal land managers for years. Growers hike into remote canyons with poisons and irrigation lines and set up camp for months. The poisons kill wildlife and seep into streams and creeks. The growers leave tons of garbage behind.

The three top causes of wildfire in California are equipment use, such as a lawnmower blade hitting a rock or a vehicle’s malfunctioning catalytic converter, plus debris burning and arson.

Recent Headlines

3 days ago in Local

PDR Disabled You Deer Hunt Looks For Disabled Children

fawn_deer

The PDR Disabled Youth Deer Hunt is looking for disabled adolescents to attend a free whitetail deer hunt.

3 days ago in Local

Gov Dayton Says Clinton is Best Qualified for President

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at New York University's Kaufman Management Center

Featuring: Hillary Clinton
Where: New York City, New York, United States
When: 24 Jul 2015
Credit: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/WENN.com

**Not available for publication in Germany, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia**

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has maintained support for Presumptive Democratic Nominee, Hillary Clinton

3 days ago in Local

Epidemiologist Warns of Ticks Over Memorial Day Weekend

Lake Oakwood Shore-approved-inhouse

With Memorial Day weekend just ahead, thousands of Nebraskans will be heading out on their first camping trips of the season -- and they'll need to take precautions against ticks.

3 days ago in Local

Iowa Police Chief Retires

police to protect and to serve approved clipart

Officials in Iowa City will be looking for a new police chief. Sam Hargadine on Monday announced his retirement, effective June 30.

4 days ago in Local

Dairy Overlay District May Come Soon to Yankton

DairyCows

The Yankton County Commission will host a public meeting this week to talk about forming a dairy overlay district.