Massive Wildfire Threatens Yosemite, San Fran's Water Supply

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 26 2013 3:59 PM

The Massive Wildfire Near Yosemite Is Now the Size Of Chicago

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Trees burned by the Rim Fire stand on August 25, 2013 in Yosemite National Park, California

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Though fire crews have been working nonstop to fight the blaze, the massive wildfire near Yosemite National Park—which is currently threatening several towns, as well as San Francisco's power and water supply—seems nearly unstoppable at the moment.

As of this morning, officials says that the fire, which began August 17, has already burned up over 149,000 acres of land. To put things in perspective, that's about the size of Chicago. At least 3,600 firefighters are currently on the job, but at last count only 15 percent of the fire was said to be contained. State fire authorities are calling the Rim Fire the 13th largest fire in California's history, and it's clear that even with helicopters, special sprinkler systems, and firefighters being recruited from as far away as Florida, it will be no easy battle to put it out. Here's CBS News with a bit on how the fire became so big in the first place:

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.
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Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park's historic giant sequoias, as well as the rest of the park, are in grave danger, according to the U.S. Forest Service. "It's the highest priority fire in the country right now because of its location, because Yosemite National Park is at risk. It's not just a national treasure, it's a world treasure," a spokesman, Dick Fleishman, told USA Today. If the blaze continues burning, it may eventually affect the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is the source of San Francisco's drinking water from 150 miles away.

Jennifer Lai is an associate editor at Slate. Slate Plus members, email her here.