Crews Try To Slow Growth Of Fire Near Yosemite

The wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park is now the seventh largest in California history. Fire crews continue to make progress, but they have lots of work ahead of them.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The big hope for today on the part of those fighting or in the path of the Yosemite wildfire is that the weather does not get as hot and dry as is predicted.

GREENE: As of this morning, what's known as the Rim Fire has been partly contained by a firefighting force of nearly 4,000.

MONTAGNE: In a moment, we'll hear from the owner of a saloon just outside Yosemite that's survived fires since frontier days. She's lost the family ranch in this wild fire.

GREENE: And it is now moving on a path straight into the National Park. As NPR's Nathan Rott reports, to slow its steady growth, firefighters have been using more fire.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: There was a theme to Monday night's crew briefing.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Charlie and Delta are working on this burnout. Division Echo, they're probably also going to be doing some burning out and we're also going do a little bit of out in Division R tonight.

ROTT: Burning out - fighting fire with fire - is one of the best tools for slowing blazes in this type of country. The ground is steep, the fuel;s dry - and when a fire is this big, it's just plain hard to get crews completely around it. Burning out removes fuel - vegetation - before the bigger fire gets there. And it's safer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE CRACKLING)

ROTT: That's evident up on the fire line, just outside of Yosemite National Park. Parker Bevington and his crew of fellow firefighters, watch as the flames creep east.

PARKER BEVINGTON: You know, the first few days this thing ripped out of the river drainages and here it's slowly, kind of, backing into the wind, even backing up hill. And we're able to stay ahead of it.

ROTT: He says this kind of controlled fire should help stop bigger flame fronts - ones that run through the tree's canopies - from reaching this part of the Park. It won't prevent all of them. But options are limited.

BEVINGTON: You can't stick your neck out there too far and really risk anything for acres. It's just not worth it. It's going to burn whether you're there or not, so...

ROTT: So do what you can. Hopefully, it's enough. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Groveland, California.

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