Berkeley Family Camp in danger due to escalating wildfire

Update, 8.23, 12:55pm: FIRE RETARDANT DROPPED ON BERKELEY FAMILY CAMP The Berkeley Family Camp has been doused with retardants from the air, according to Jerry Snyder, spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest office of the U.S. Forest Service, who spoke to Berkeleyside around 10:30am. The Forest Service fire area map published at 8am today, Friday, shows that the perimeter of the fire has not reached the Berkeley camp.

The Rim Fire, which began on Saturday Aug. 17,  has now escalated to burn 105,620 acres and a total of 2,011 firefighters are working to control it, one of whom has been injured. 4,5000 structures are threatened and 16 have been destroyed. The fire is only 2% contained and the estimated cost to date of responding to the blaze is $5.4 million.

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Source: Rim Fire map published on Aug. 23 at 8am. US Forest Service

Update: 4:50 pm: MAPS SHOW PROGRESS OF FIRE TOWARDS CAMP

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A Rim Fire map, published at 4pm today, shows the fire is spreading east along the Hardin Flat Road corridor towards the Berkeley Family Camp. It is estimated to be under one mile away. Source: USDA Forest Service. (See map below, also)

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This map, which is several hours older than the one above, shows how fire has progressed east. Source: USDA Forest Service. [Hat tip: Ariel Nava]
Original story: The Rim Fire, which has been raging in the Yosemite area for the past six days, has grown exponentially in the past 24 hours and is heading in the direction of the Berkeley-run Tuolumne Family Camp. Authorities say the camp is in danger.

“The Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp is under threat,” said Jerry Snyder, spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest office of the U.S. Forest Service.

The city of Berkeley is monitoring the situation carefully. A senior city employee described the camp as being “in grave danger.”

Rim Fire Photo- US Forest Service
The Rim Fire which is threatening Berkeley’s Tuolumne Family Camp has grown exponentially in the past day. Photo: U.S. Forest Service

In the past 12 hours, the Rim Fire, in the Stanislaus National Forest near Groveland (Tuolumne County), has grown in scale from just over 16,000 acres to nearly 54,000 acres, making it one of biggest active blazes in the nation. It is only 2% contained, compared to 5% late Wednesday night.

More than 1,350 firefighters are battling the fire, including a contingent sent from Berkeley, but crews are losing ground given the dry conditions, strong winds and often inaccessible terrain.

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The Rim Fire coverage on Aug. 22. Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp is in the south east. Source: U.S. Forest Service

Specific measures to protect the Berkeley camp have not been taken, according to Snyder, although that would be the protocol should it be in imminent danger. Two other camps — San Jose Family Camp and Tawonga Camp — have both been successfully defended in recent days. Fire crews made aerial approaches and dropped retardants on the camps in both cases. The fire burned past both camps, Snyder said.

Families and staff at the camp have been leaving voluntarily over the past few days, before an official evacuation order was released Wednesday, Aug. 21. Those who left described smoky air with ash falling from the sky. The camp had lost electricity and phone service, and was operating on a generator.

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Staffers leaving the Berkeley Family Camp grabbed items with sentimental value on their way out. Photo: Sonny Abesamis/CC

Before they left, some staffers, concerned about the potential threat to the much-loved camp, took with them items such as hand-painted signs, maps, quilts and photographs, some of them dating back many decades. The camp was established in 1922 and several generations of Berkeley families have enjoyed vacations there over the years.

The fire, which started six days ago, on Aug. 17,  is spreading in all directions, except to the southwest, according to the forest service. In the next 24 hours, the fire is expected to continue up the Tuolumne River canyon, and spread to the north and east.

The effects of the fire are being felt at the Cal Alumni Association’s Lair of the Bear Family Camp about 50 miles north-east of the Berkeley camp, where skies are described as being full of smoke and ash is settling on outdoor surfaces.

Two homes and seven outbuildings have burned down so far, and approximately 2,500 structures are threatened.

*Track the fire at the U.S. Forest Service’s website.
*Follow the fire on Twitter using #RimFire
*Follow the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Facebook page

Related:
Berkeley’s Tuolumne Family camp closed due to wildfires (08.22.13)
Wildfires put Tuolumne Family Camp on evacuation alert (08.20.13)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.