San Francisco’s water remains safe as Rim Fire continues to grow 

click to enlarge Rim Fire
  • AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
  • Inmate firefighters walk along state Highway 120 as firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. Fire crews are clearing brush and setting sprinklers to protect two groves of giant sequoias as a massive week-old wildfire rages along the remote northwest edge of Yosemite National Park.

San Francisco’s supply of water and electricity remained safe Sunday as a forest fire continued to burn out of control near Yosemite National Park and the Bay Area’s Hetch Hetchy water source, fire and utility officials said.

Cal Fire estimated that the Rim Fire, which started Aug. 17, has burned more than 133,000 acres in Stanislaus National Forest and was only 7 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

The fire has already become California’s 15th largest blaze in recorded history, Cal Fire said.

The fire has threatened more than 4,500 homes and approached the Hecty Hetchy Reservoir and watershed, which supplies water to city and other Bay Area residents and hydroelectric power to San Francisco government properties.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission issued a statement Sunday reassuring customers that water quality and utility service have not been impacted, even though the agency was forced to shut down power lines due to fire damage at a hydroelectric facility last week.

“All of San Francisco’s municipal customers continue to be fully supplied; there will be no interruption in electric service,” the statement said.

Since Aug. 19, the SFPUC has spent an estimated $600,000 to purchase electricity from other sources while the transmission lines from Tuolumne County are shut down.

So far the blaze has not reached Hetch Hetchy Reservoir or caused any damage to O’Shaughnessy Dam, according to the SFPUC.

The water quality was being continually tested to ensure that fallout from the fire has not jeopardized the water supply downstream. The water quality remains high and the supply is safe, according to the SFPUC.

Meanwhile, as flames leapfrog across the vast forests, moving from one treetop to the next, residents in the fire’s path are moving animals and children to safety.

At Ike Bunney’s dude ranch near Tuolumne City, all creatures have been moved. “We’ve already evacuated the horses,” said Bunney, who was keeping an eye on his Slide Mountain Guest Ranch on Sunday. “I think they’re worried about the fire sparking over these hills.”

The fire has moved northeast away from Groveland, where smoke gave away to blue skies Sunday. But at Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne City, the slot machines were quiet as emergency workers took over nearly all of the resort’s 148 hotel rooms.

Hundreds of firefighters were deployed Sunday to protect Tuolumne City and other communities in the path of the fire. Eight fire trucks and four bulldozers were deployed near Bunney’s ranch on the west side of Mount Baldy, where two years of drought have created tinder-dry conditions.

“Winds are increasing, so it’s going to be very challenging,” said Bjorn Frederickson, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Fire lines near Ponderosa Hills and Twain Hart are being cut miles ahead of the blaze in locations where fire officials hope they will help protect the communities should the fire jump containment lines.

The fire is the most critical of a dozen burning across California, officials say.

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