Pinecrest Lake at the Lair of the Golden Bear on the morning of Thursday Aug. 22. Photo: Nancy Rubin
Pinecrest Lake
Pinecrest Lake before the Rim Fire took hold and engulfed more than 60,000 acres of forest and hills. Photo: Nancy Rubin

The Cal Alumni Association’s Lair of the Golden Bear camp evacuated campers and staff on Thursday due to very poor air quality caused by the Rim Fire which is raging in the Yosemite area.

“Right now, we have ash falling from the sky,” Lair director Mike Yaley said from the camp, quoted on the Cal Alumni Association website. Tuolumne County has issued an air quality alert, campers are leaving, and an upcoming Family Weekend had to be cancelled, Yaley said, describing the scene as “dark, orange and kind of gloomy.”

Berkeleyside contributing photographer Nancy Rubin, who has been visiting the Lair since 1952, shared the dramatic photographs shown here. She said on Thursday: “The staff was amazing and the managers kept us informed with updates and then at lunch today announced that due to the air quality we should pack up. I felt so sad for campers who had never been to the Lair before — some traveled from New York, several from Long Beach and everyone had looked forward to the incredible experience that is the Lair. Everyone I talked with said “see you next year” — everyone had a great attitude and understood what had to be done.”

Early afternoon yesterday
Smoke fills the sky over the Lair of the Golden Bear on the afternoon of Wednesday Aug. 21. Photo: Nancy Rubin

The Rim Fire started on Saturday Aug. 17. Since Wednesday, it has nearly quadrupled in size, from 16,000 acres to 63,366 acres acres. As of Thursday, 1,849 firefighters were attempting to control the blaze with little success: at latest count it was only 1% contained. Gov. Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency in Tuolumne County on Thursday, a declaration that helps direct money and resources to fight the fire.

Several camps are threatened by the wildfire, which is being described as one of biggest active blazes in the nation. More than 100 students from Berkeley’s Maybeck High School evacuated voluntarily from the  San Jose Family Camp on Tuesday, and both it and Tawonga Camp were then successfully defended by emergency responders when the fire threatened to engulf them. Fire crews made aerial approaches and dropped retardants which caused the fire to burn past both camps, according to Jerry Snyder, spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest office of the U.S. Forest Service.

The Berkeley-run Tuolumne Family Camp is currently evacuated and under threat.

*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

Berkeley family camp in danger due to escalating wildfire (08.22.13) 
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, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...