Wildfire burns 16,000 acres near Yosemite


Bay Area crews are helping fight the blaze. A battalion chief from the Oakland Fire Department says they have one engine and a four-person crew at the Rim Fire, all part of a five-engine strike team from the Bay Area. On Tuesday, they were on the front lines. On Wednesday, they're doing structure protection.

So far, the blaze has burned more than 16,000 acres and is 5 percent contained. The flames are so large and creating so much smoke that a news helicopter was forced to keep its distance Wednesday morning. On the ground, the fire is fierce. Highway 120 is shutdown in both directions for a 4-mile stretch, blocking traffic in and out of Yosemite's west side.

For one woman, that means not knowing if her home is still standing. "A lot of memories... It's been up there for 15, 18 years. We just had a family reunion up there the first weekend of August. We had 60 people up there and had a big family reunion," Julie Tresemer said.

The Rim Fire has destroyed at least two homes and seven other buildings. The National Forest Service says 2,500 more structures are under threat in the nearby communities of Groveland and Mountain Lake.

Many people are leaving under voluntary evacuation advisories. "I have 50 years' worth of memorabilia in this house and it's very difficult to choose what to take, so mostly pictures. Pictures and more pictures," Katherine Davalle said.

"It's terrifying how unpredictable it is and how fast it's moving. I don't even know what to think anymore, really," said evacuee Amelia Nickell.

The fire is burning in extreme terrain, much of it inaccessible. Firefighters, more than 800 of them, are not trying to stop the fire as it burns in the wilderness, but they are protecting properties. Campgrounds along Highway 120 have been evacuated including three camps run by Bay Area cities. Senior citizens, and students from San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley have all been relocated or sent home.

Despite the evacuations and the growing fire, the park is still open.

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