Rim Fire Cause Could Take Month To Determine
September 4, 2013
By The Associated Press
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - A federal forestry official says it`s unlikely a fire burning in and around Yosemite National Park started at an illegal marijuana grow site.
Jerry Snyder of the U.S Forest Service said Wednesday that the steep and inaccessible canyon where the Rim Fire started Aug. 17 doesn`t have a water source that growers look for when they set up remote gardens.
Snyder also said lightning isn`t to blame.
It could take months for investigators to determine what ignited the blaze that has consumed more than 370 square miles of Sierra Nevada forests.
Snyder said that as the fire heads into granite outcroppings, some firefighters have begun work to save patches of forests and meadows inside the fire`s footprint. Snyder said they are trying to save wildlife habitat and historic buildings.
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.
"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.
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.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Story Image: In this photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a Hotshot fire crew member rests near a controlled burn operation at Horseshoe Meadows, as crews continue to fight the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park in California Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service, Mike McMillan)
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