SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

August 26, 2013

Yosemite fire 'poses every challenge there can be'

(Continued)

The city’s hydroelectric power generated by the system has been interrupted by the fire, forcing the utility to spend $600,000 buying power on the open market.

Park employees are continuing their efforts to protect two groves of giant sequoias that are unique to the region by cutting brush and setting sprinklers, Medena said.

The fire has consumed more than 209 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at just 7 percent.

“It’s slowing down a bit, but it’s still growing,” Frederickson said.

Fire lines near Ponderosa Hills and Twain Hart are being cut miles ahead of the blaze in locations where fire officials hope they will help protect the communities should the fire jump containment lines.

“There is a huge focus in those areas in terms of air support and crews on the ground building fire lines to protect those communities. We’re facing difficult conditions and extremely challenging weather,” Frederickson said.

The high winds and movement of the fire from bone-dry brush on the ground to 100-foot oak and pine treetops have created dire conditions.

“A crown fire is much more difficult to fight,” said Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Our firefighters are on the ground having to spray up.”

The blaze sweeping across steep, rugged river canyons quickly has become one of the biggest in California history, thanks in part to extremely dry conditions caused by a lack of snow and rainfall this year. Investigators are trying to determine how the fire started Aug. 17, days before lightning storms swept through the region and sparked other, smaller blazes.

The fire is the most critical of a dozen burning across California, officials say. More than 12 helicopters and a half-dozen fixed wing tankers are dropping water and retardant from the air, and 2,800 firefighters are on the ground.

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