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Monday, August 26, 2013

Wildfire Near Yosemite Destroys Berkeley’s Family Campground

One of the largest wildfires in California history continued to rage Monday near Yosemite National Park, destroying more than 149,000 acres, including the city of Berkeley’s popular Tuolumne Family Camp, officials said.

In an update on Monday, state and federal fire officials said the blaze was 15 percent contained as it burned in Stanislaus National Forest and along the eastern edge into Yosemite. Most of the national park remained open, including its most visited area, Yosemite Valley, which has been untouched by the blaze.

An aerial view of the fire.

Built in 1922 near Groveland, Calif., the Tuolumne Family Camp was a summer vacation destination for generations of Berkeley residents, who turned to Facebook and The East Bay Express to share their memories.

KGO-TV, the ABC News affiliate in San Francisco, broadcast images of the destruction at the camp.

The city-operated camp was evacuated last Tuesday, three days after the fire started on Aug. 17. By the weekend, the fire had spread to the edges of the nearby Camp Mather campground, run by the city of San Francisco, but as of Sunday it had caused only minor damage, according to a statement from city officials.

On Saturday, Vivian Ho, a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle who is covering the fire, visited the campground and posted a photo on Twitter.

Just a few days ago, people at another nearby camp, Tuolumne Trails, captured video of a plane dropping fire retardant.

Video from the Tuolumne Trails camp showing planes dropping fire retardant.

With steep slopes, rugged terrain and flames leaping from one towering tree to the next, the more than 3,500 firefighters struggling to contain the so-called Rim Fire have faced multiple challenges. The blaze could threaten sources of San Francisco’s water and power supply, as my colleagues Max Whittaker and Maggie Astor reported.

Gov. Jerry Brown, scheduled to visit the area on Monday, extended a state of emergency on Friday to include the county and city of San Francisco as the fire raced toward the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, a major source of drinking water for the city. So far, there has been no impact on the quality of water. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has had to shut down two of its three hydroelectric power stations.

The entrance to Yosemite National Park from Highway 120, the Hodgdon Meadow campground and the Hetch Hetchy backpackers’ campground remained closed on Sunday, but most of the park was open. The park’s webcam showed clear skies at Half Dome, a rock formation in Yosemite Valley.

The fire is one of dozens burning in the West, including at least 12 in California.

Karen L. Nyberg, an astronaut at the International Space Station, shared a photo on her Twitter account, @AstroKarenN, of what the fire looked like from her perspective.