The Rim Fire has become the largest fire in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada, though undoubtedly much larger fires regularly swept through these mountains before Europeans arrived here. At 192,737 acres, the Rim Fire is also the sixth largest in California history, and seems almost certain to pass the Witch Fire (197,990 acres) for fifth place.
The fire’s growth has slowed considerably. Estimated containment for the Rim Fire is 30%, which represents a lot of progress for firefighters within the last few days.
Highway 120 west of Yosemite remains closed indefinitely. Within the park, Highway 120 is temporarily closed from the park’s western boundary to Yosemite Creek. This means that you can’t drive from Yosemite Valley over Tioga Pass to Lee Vining and Mono Lake (or vice versa). You can reach Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, etc., by taking another route to Lee Vining, and driving into the park over Tioga Pass, but you’ll have to turn around at Yosemite Creek and leave the park via the same route.
The Tioga Road was closed to allow fire crews to perform burning operations between the road and Hetch Hetchy in an attempt to stop the spread of the fire to the east. The burn was actually scheduled for yesterday, but weather conditions apparently weren’t favorable. There’s no word on when the road might reopen.
If you haven’t seen this already, here’s an amazing video made from the cockpit of an air tanker dropping fire retardant along the edge of the fire. The video really shows the size and intensity of the fire, as well as the skill of the pilots. The video was made on August 22nd along the fire’s eastern front near Camp Mather and Hetch Hetchy. In fact the pilots drop their retardant right on Camp Mather, home of the Strawberry Music Festival; you can see Birch Lake just beyond their drop zone as they pull away. This coincides with stories I’ve heard that the buildings at Camp Mather were saved by air tankers dropping fire retardant.
Here’s a link to the official information page about the fire, and another link to information about the fire within Yosemite. And here’s one more link to a webcam with a view of the fire from the Crane Flat Lookout (second image down, and the camera is now actually pointed northeast, not northwest as it says). Further down that page you can see the Yosemite Valley webcams, usually showing remarkably clear skies.
And finally, don’t miss this exceptional time-lapse video of the fire, mostly made from that same Crane Flat Lookout, by Jonathan Byers and the National Park Service.
— Michael Frye
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
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