Firefighters have finally begun making headway with the Rim Fire in northern California, which has thus far scorched 357 square miles while destroying 11 homes and 100 non-residential structures. The blaze, which started August 17, reached into the famed Yosemite National Park as well, where 94 square-miles have been razed; investigators have yet to determine a cause for the fire.
Rim, which now ranks as the fourth-worst blaze in California history, has caused issues beyond the directly affected area. Both the electrical and aquatic infrastructures serving San Francisco were either damaged or threatened, while air-quality as far away as Carson City, Nevada became so poor that an emergency was declared, with dozens going to hospitals complaining of eye and throat irritation.
Long-term environmental ramifications of this mega-fire remain unclear; while the amount of carbon dioxide from the blaze alone is serious, the damage done to the natural carbon sinks in the forest is potentially disastrous. As for the immediate emergency, officials are cautiously optimistic that - with 60% containment now achieved - an end is in sight; they are predicting complete containment by September 20.
2013 has been a bad year for major wildfires in the US and across the globe. One of those events, the massive Elk Complex blaze in Idaho, destroyed 83 structures (38 of which were homes) and 131,000 acres before being contained just this last weekend.