Some evacuations lifted as firefighters in California battle Rim Fire near Yosemite
(CNN) — It was a rare bright spot on an otherwise hazy, smoke-filled horizon.
As firefighters worked to get a grip on one of the largest wildfires in California’s history, an evacuation advisory was lifted Thursday for residents in Tuolumne City, a picturesque community threatened by the blaze.
In a further sign of progress, authorities also withdrew similar advisories for two other northern California communities close to the flames, Soulsbyville and Willow Springs.
Known as the Rim Fire, the conflagration has charred nearly 200,000 acres, cost the state more than $39 million to date and is threatening 5,500 structures, of which 4,500 are residences.
It’s the fifth-largest wildfire in California history. On Thursday, it was in its 12th day and it had only been contained 32%, according to Cal Fire. That’s a slight improvement from the 30% containment the day before.
Because of the approaching flames, officials have shut down electricity generators, and San Francisco — more than 120 miles to the west — is temporarily getting power from elsewhere.
5,000 firefighters battle the blaze
While the Yosemite Conservancy says the Rim Fire has consumed tens of thousands of acres inside Yosemite National Park, it has so far had little or no direct impact on Yosemite Valley, a popular spot for tourists and home to many of the park’s iconic attractions, including the El Capitan rock formation.
Firefighters hope to keep it that way. Nearly 5,000 people have been assigned to tackling the blaze.
“This is going to be a tough fire,” said Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s going to continue for a few more weeks.”
The blaze has created challenges not only for utility providers, but also for local firefighters, who fill in for state and federal fire teams.
“It makes more work for us. Everybody has to work more, whether they are up there or not,” Art Ray, chief operator for the Stockton Fire Department, told CNN affiliate KCRA.
Some firefighters get little sleep, working four straight days, he said.
“We have to work 72 or 96 hours in a row, and being away from your family with little sleep and physically demanding takes a toll,” Ray said.
‘A lot of work to be done’
Authorities say the Rim Fire started on August 17. The cause is under investigation.
“There’s a lot of concern, and there’s a lot of work to be done,” Forest Service spokesman Lee Bentley said.
Firefighters have been able to build fire lines in several locations, officials say.
The forecast is looking favorable as daytime highs sink into the 60s in Yosemite National Park over the Labor Day weekend, a break from the temperatures in the 80s firefighters were facing earlier in the week.
More than 20 helicopters and air tankers were aiding the efforts.
By Ed Payne, CNN
CNN’s Dana Ford, Gary Tuchman and David Simpson contributed to this report.
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