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Raging Yosemite fire leads to utilities emergency in San Francisco

Posted at 7:21 AM, Aug 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-24 08:04:25-04

(CNN) — A fast-moving California wildfire more than doubled in size in a day, prompting the governor to issue a state of emergency in the San Francisco area because of threats to utilities.

The Rim Fire burned nearly 126,000 acres late Friday night, up from about 53,000 acres a day earlier.

It’s 5% contained, and spreading from Stanislaus National Forest to part of Yosemite National Park, authorities said.

In a remote area of Yosemite, it has burned 11,000 acres, but has had no direct effect on Yosemite Valley, a popular spot for tourists.

Meanwhile, it is threatening the small mountain communities of Groveland and Pine Mountain Lake just outside the Stanislaus forest.

About 4,500 structures are under threat, according to InciWeb, a federal website that collects information from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Part of the Groveland area is under an evacuation order.

“It’s crazy, and it has been for five days,” Kirsten Lennon, whose home is threatened, told CNN affiliate KCRA. “Your heart’s racing a little faster.”

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department issued evacuation advisories for the town of Tuolumne and nearby Ponderosa Hill, according to InciWeb. It was not clear how many residents were covered by the evacuation advisory.

Authorities say the Rim Fire started in Stanislaus National Forest, just west of Yosemite, on August 17.

The largely inaccessible and steep terrain has hampered firefighters’ efforts, helping the fire grow nearly unchecked to a size now 1.5 times the area of California’s capital, Sacramento.

More than 1,800 firefighters have been battling the flames on the ground and by aircraft. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency in San Francisco city and county. He said the blaze threatened water and electrical assets in the county.

“The San Francisco Public Utilities has been forced to shut down transmission lines,” he said in a statement.

Yosemite, with hundreds of campground sites and lodging units, had nearly 4 million visitors last year, according to the National Park Service.