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September 5, 2013 / V A Nichols

Rim Fire cause: hunter’s illegal campfire

 

Kurtis Alexander
Updated 11:02 am, Thursday, September 5, 2013
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  • In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 image provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a member of the BLM Silver State Hotshot crew patrols the fire line during burn operations on the southern flank of the Rim Fire in California. The blaze has scorched 343 square miles of brush, oaks and pines and 11 homes, as of Saturday Aug. 31, 2013. Photo: Mike McMillan, Associated Press
    In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 image provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a member of the BLM Silver State Hotshot crew patrols the fire line during burn operations on the southern flank of the Rim Fire in California. The blaze has scorched 343 square miles of brush, oaks and pines and 11 homes, as of Saturday Aug. 31, 2013. Photo: Mike McMillan, Associated Press

 


 

(09-05) 11:00 PDT GROVELAND, TUOLUMNE COUNTY — The massive Rim Fire on the west edge of Yosemite National Park was caused by a hunter who lost control of his campfire, authorities said Thursday.

 

The hunter, whose name has not been released, started an illegal campfire while traveling in remote wilderness within the Stanislaus National Forest, about three miles east of the Sierra foothill town of Groveland, the U.S. Forest Service said.

 

The campfire grew into a wildfire Aug. 17 and has since burned more than 370 square miles, both in the national forest and nearby Yosemite. The fire is the fourth largest in California history and has destroyed 111 structures, including 11 homes, forest service officials said.

 

The forest service indicated it had identified the hunter, but said it would withhold his name as the investigation continued. No charges have been filed.

 

Penalties for starting a damaging wildfire vary, but have historically ranged from fines to community service to prison time – even when ignition is accidental.

 

The Rim Fire started several hundred feet above the Clavey River in a section of forest that is rarely visited, forest officials said. There are no roads or designated trails in the area.

 

Deer hunting, though, is popular in the national forest this time of year, and officials had speculated that hunters might have passed through the remote river canyon. Hunters are not required to register their visits.

 

A dry spring and recent hot weather made the canyon particularly prone to fire, and even though parts of the area had burned before, there was a great deal of brush and pine to fuel the blaze.

 

Rumors had circulated that illicit marijuana growers were responsible for starting the fire, but forest service officials said that pot gardens were unlikely in this part of the forest because of its steep terrain and lack of water for irrigation.

 

Investigators also had ruled out lightning because no strikes were reported at the time the fire started.

 

Over the past few days, firefighters have made substantial progress corralling the blaze, reporting 80 percent containment Thursday. Full containment is expected by Sept. 20, but the fire is expected to smolder well into the fall rainy season.

 

The cost of fighting the fire stands at $77 million, officials said.

 

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Rim-Fire-cause-hunter-s-illegal-campfire-4789468.php

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