YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — A fire that started in remote Tuolumne County raged out of control Monday, leaping the Tuolumne River and Highway 120 and closing an entrance to Yosemite National Park.
The Rim fire started the day at 800 acres but grew significantly to an estimated 2,500 acres by Monday evening. It's one of hundreds of fires that crews are battling across the West. They earned one small victory with 100 percent containment of the Bridges fire in Calaveras County, near Natural Bridges, a popular recreation area.
A strike team including members from several area departments headed to the Bridges fire on Saturday, Modesto Regional Fire Battalion Chief Sean Slamon said. Modesto Regional sent a chief officer to the Swedes fire in Butte County, which has forced hundreds of residents from their homes 60 miles north of Sacramento.
California is not alone fires are raging in Nevada, Oregon and in Idaho, where several resort towns are threatened.
Closest to home is the Rim fire, which broke out Saturday about 3:15 p.m. Its cause remains under investigation, said Jerry Snyder, public affairs officer for the Stanislaus National Forest. Although there has been lightning in some areas, officials don't believe that sparked the fire.
"It's not the cause of this fire that we know of," Snyder said. "But the area where it started is very remote. There are no roads."
The community of Buck Meadows has been evacuated, as have several family camps, including the San Jose Family Camp in Groveland, Snyder said. On the Groveland community Facebook page, residents were offering one another places to stay or to board animals.
Highway closed indefinitely
Authorities closed four miles of Highway 120, including the entrance to Yosemite National Park. The Central Valley Transportation Management Center issued an alert Monday afternoon, advising motorists to avoid the area if possible and watch out for fire equipment. Officials said there is no estimated time of reopening.
Steep terrain and hot, gusty weather in the canyons made for grueling conditions. Snyder said he was waiting for an update from the fire team on the plan of attack.
As of Monday afternoon, six crews, four helicopters, two engines, and a bulldozer were involved in the fighting the fire in Tuolumne County, with assistance from several fixed-wing aircraft. A total of 166 firefighters were on hand. Snyder didn't know if more would be added.
Although temperatures are expected to ease somewhat in the next couple of days, a fire weather watch was in effect Monday for the Northern California mountains and foothills.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.