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Wildfire’s spread triggers state of emergency in San Francisco

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POSTED August 24, 2013 2:15 a.m.

 BUCK MEADOWS. (AP) — A giant wildfire raging out of control grew to more than 200 square miles Friday 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 blaze had already done some damage and threatened more to the lines and stations that pipe power to San Francisco, so Brown, who had declared an emergency for the fire area earlier in the week, made the unusual move of extending it to the city across the state.

San Francisco 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 on the open market 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 funding and resources to help the city and makes it eligible for more federal funds to help with power shortages and outages or water problems.

Within the park, the blaze was burning on about 17 square miles in a remote area around Lake Eleanor, Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

Backcountry permits are required to hike in that area, Cobb said. The park was no longer issuing those and had contacted every person who had received a permit to go there. Two roads into that area were closed and occupants of a campground near the Route 120 west entrance were relocated.

“We don’t have anybody we know of in that area based on the permits we have out now,” she said.

The fire was more than 20 miles from Yosemite Valley and skies there were “crystal clear,” Cobb said.

“Right now there are no closures, and no visitor services are being affected in the park,” he said. “We just have to take one day at a time depending on fire activity.”

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