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Yosemite-area fire balloons overnight
Horseshoe Meadow Hotshots members Chuck Ervin, left, and Ian White prepared a fire break Tuesday at the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near Yosemite National Park in California. MCT photo

Yosemite-area fire balloons overnight

Aug 22, 2013 - The Associated Press

The blaze is among 50 major uncontained wildfires burning throughout the West.

FRESNO, Calif. -- A wildfire outside Yosemite National Park -- one of 50 major brush blazes burning across the western U.S. -- more than tripled in size overnight and still threatens about 2,500 homes, hotels and camp buildings.

Fire officials said the blaze burning in remote, steep terrain had grown to more than 84 square miles and was only 2 percent contained Thursday, down from 5 percent a day earlier.

The fire has destroyed two homes and seven outbuildings and led to the voluntary evacuation of the gated summer community of Pine Mountain Lake, which has a population of 2,800.

Several organized camps and at least two campgrounds have been evacuated since the fire broke out Saturday.

The fire also caused the closure of a 4-mile stretch of State Route 120, one main path into Yosemite on the west side. The park remains open and can be accessed via state Routes 140 and 41 and State Route 120 from the east side.

"This is typically a very busy time for us until Labor Day, so it's definitely affecting business not having the traffic come through to Yosemite," said Britney Sorsdahl, a manager at the Iron Door Saloon and Grill in Groveland, a community of about 600 about five miles from the fire.

The board of supervisors in Tuolumne County held an emergency meeting and voted for a resolution asking Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency and free funds for the firefight.

The resolution said the fire was "directly threatening" communities and "beyond our capabilities," according to the Modesto Bee.

The fire was among 50 major uncontained wildfires burning throughout the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, including in California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 19,000 firefighters were fighting the fires.

But the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday that it is running out of money to fight wildfires and is diverting $600 million from timber, recreation and other areas to fill the gap. The agency said it had spent $967 million so far this year and was down to $50 million -- typically enough to pay for just a few days of fighting fires when the nation is at its top wildfire preparedness level, which went into effect Tuesday.

There have been more than 32,000 fires this year that have burned more than 5,300 square miles.

On Wednesday, the National Interagency Fire Center listed two fires in Montana as the nation's No. 1 priority. They include a wildfire burning west of Missoula, Mont., that has surpassed 13 square miles, destroyed five homes, closed U.S. Highway 12 and led to multiple evacuations.

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