Yosemite Fire Threatens San Francisco's Water, Power Supplies

Image: Yosemite Fire Threatens San Francisco's Water, Power Supplies The Rim Fire burns near Yosemite National Park, Calif. on Aug. 24.

Monday, 26 Aug 2013 07:27 AM

By Newsmax Wires

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The Yosemite fire threatening San Francisco's power and water supplies continued to spread through the famous national park over the weekend.

The Yosemite fire has consumed approximately 225 square miles of forestland with officials estimating just 7 percent containment.

"This fire has continued to pose every challenge that there can be [in] a fire: inaccessible terrain, strong winds, dry conditions," Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Sunday.

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California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the city on Aug. 23 as the Rim Fire moved toward the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Bloomberg News reported.

The lake, 160 miles east of San Francisco, supplies about 85 percent of the city’s water and powers San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco General Hospital and the city’s transit system.

The Rim Fire has charred more than 134,000 acres (54,000 hectares) or 200 square miles, and was only 7 percent contained, fire officials said late yesterday. More than 2,800 personnel were fighting the blaze, which erupted outside the park in the Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17, according to the national Incident Information System.

The fire caused “no change or impact to water quality or delivery from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir,” Tyrone Jue, a spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said yesterday in a statement. The system serves 2.6 million water customers in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Water flows from the Hetch Hetchy, more than 3,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, through tunnels to San Francisco. Inspectors found no damage to O’Shaughnessy Dam and no apparent ash deposits on the lake surface, Michael Carlin, the commission’s deputy general manager, said in a statement.

The commission deactivated electrical transmission lines and two of three powerhouses in the area of the fire on Aug. 19, and has spent $600,000 buying replacement electricity, according to yesterday’s statement.

San Francisco’s water system has supplies in Bay Area reservoirs and is linked with the East Bay Municipal Utilities District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, according to the commission.

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Brown, whose emergency declaration cited “conditions of extreme peril,” secured federal financial assistance to help fight the fire, according to the California Emergency Management Agency.

The damage to Yosemite has been minimal and all lodges and recreational activities remain open and accessible, according to the park’s website.

Statewide, the Yosemite fire is one of several blazes that are being fought by some 8,000 firefighters and have already destroyed nearly 400 square miles.

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