Wildfire reaches Yosemite and threatens San Francisco power

Blaze reaches wilderness area of national park with emergency declared in city

The Rim Fire consumes trees near Groveland, California yesterday. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Rim Fire consumes trees near Groveland, California yesterday. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


A wildfire in northern California has spread to Yosemite National Park and prompted the California governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for the San Francisco area because of the potential effect on its utilities.

The blaze, which originated in Stanislaus National Forest, has reached a wilderness area of Yosemite, according to the park website.

Temporary interruption of electricity and water delivery to San Francisco is possible, Mr Brown said in a statement yesterday.


The fire has damaged the electrical infrastructure serving the city, and forced the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to shut down power lines, the governor said in his declaration. There were no reports of blackouts in the city, which is about 320km west of the park.

“Conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist within the state that affect the City and County of San Francisco,” Mr Brown said.

The damage to Yosemite has been minimal and all lodges and recreational activities remain open and accessible, according to the park’s website.

The wildfire swept further into Yosemite National Park on Friday, remaining largely unchecked as it threatened one of the country’s major tourist destinations.

The reservoir provides water to 2.6 million customers in the San Francisco area. Should the blaze affect the reservoir, the city’s water supply could be affected, Mr Brown said in his declaration.

Highway 120, one of four access routes to a park known for its waterfalls, giant sequoia groves and other scenic wonders, was temporarily closed. The highway leads to the west side of the 750,000 acre park.

Located some 300km from San Francisco and some 500km from Los Angeles, Yosemite attracted nearly 4 million visitors last year.

The fire was also threatening 4,500 homes, up from 2,500 on Thursday, and an undisclosed number of homes were ordered evacuated on Friday, adding to earlier evacuations.

The so-called Rim Fire, which started last week in the Stanislaus National Forest, had blackened 11,000 acres at the northeastern corner of Yosemite as of Friday afternoon after exploding in size overnight, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

The blaze burning in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains is now the fastest-moving of 50 large wildfires raging across the drought-parched US West that have strained resources and prompted fire managers to open talks with Pentagon commanders and Canadian officials about possible reinforcements.

Several large fires have already damaged utilities in Southern California in recent months.

A blaze that spread across almost 30,000 acres north of Los Angeles in June triggered “multiple forced outages” on lines that connect to Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, according to the California Independent System Operator , which manages the state’s power grid.