U.S. Forest Service

Firefighters head toward hot spots in the Rim fire on Saturday.

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Rim fire's rapid spread cited as cautionary tale for residents in Amador, El Dorado counties

Published: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 - 6:37 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 - 11:00 pm

As the Rim fire continues to burn in the Stanislaus National Forest, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in Amador and El Dorado counties say such fires could occur in their jurisdiction.

The Rim fire is burning in terrain similar to that found in Amador and El Dorado counties, and residents are advised to be prepared and not ignore the risk. Fire officials say people need to recognize how quickly a wildfire can spread.

"I imagine the residents of Tuolumne County never thought it could really happen to them, or that the Rim fire could have burned 255,848 acres -- 400 square miles -- in 28 days, but it has with ferocity that one seldom sees," Kelly Keenan, chief of Cal Fire's Amador-El Dorado-Sacramento Unit, said in a written statement. "With 80 percent of the fire contained, the third largest wildfire in the state's history is still spotting ahead of itself and causing Yosemite National Park to close four of its campgrounds and the Stanislaus National Forest to close two of its ranger districts, not to mention the road closures in the area."

Patrick McDaniel, a forester and fire behavior analyst with Cal Fire's Amador-El Dorado Unit, said the Rim fire illustrates the intensity of a wildland fire and how quickly is can increase in size. At its height, Aug. 22 and 23, it was burning an average of 36 acres ever minute for a total of 51,754 acres in 24 hours, he said.

To illustrate how quickly a wildfire can move, fire officials cited statistics from the Rim fire:

• Aug. 17, 3:25 p.m., the fire is reported.

• Aug. 18, about 15 hours after the first report, the fire is 200 acres with no containment.

• Aug. 19, at 7 a.m., the fire has quadrupled in size to 800 acres.

• Aug. 20, at 7 a.m., the fire has grown to nearly 13 times its size in 24 hours, to 10,170 acres.

• Aug. 21, at 7 a.m., the fire has grown more than 50 percent and has burned 16,228 acres.

• Aug. 22, at 7 a.m., the fire more has than tripled its size in 24 hours, for a total of 53,866 acres.

• Aug. 23, at 7 a.m., the fire has nearly doubled in size again, to 105,620 acres, with 2 percent containment.

• Aug. 24, at 7 p.m., the fire has grown an additional 24,000 acres to 129,620, with 7 percent containment.

• Sept. 13, at 7 a.m., the fire was 255,858 acres with 80 percent containment.

Officials caution residents not assume that because their neighborhood doesn't have a history of fire or they live in a home with manicured landscaping that they can't become the victim of a wildland fire.

"The truth is, every year we witness a neighborhood with 'no fire history' subject to a catastrophic fire and million-dollar homes with manicured landscaping destroyed in wildland fires," Keenan said.

Information on how to increase fire safety, create defensible space and prepare for disasters is available online at www.ReadyForWildfire.org, www.fire.ca.gov, or www.preventwildfiresCA.org.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Cathy Locke



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