September 14, 2013

Junior high students gather donations for Rim firefighters

Eighth-graders at Roosevelt Junior High in Modesto are gathering supplies for firefighters at the Rim fire scene along with donations for the American Red Cross disaster-relief fund.

Roosevelt Junior High School students gave up a chunk of a sunny Saturday to collect donations for firefighters at the Rim fire, which has burned nearly 400 square miles around Yosemite National Park since it started nearly month ago.

“We had a discussion about Arizona and that fire where 19 men died, so we figured we need to help firefighters who are putting their lives on the line,” said eighth-grader Gillian Lehman.

She was one of about a dozen members of Roosevelt’s California Junior Scholarship Federation club standing at the College and West Orangeburg corner of campus, waving down cars to seek donations.

Kristina Yudin held a sign asking for the practical items students at the school have been bringing in all week: flashlights, batteries, blankets, foil, paper towels, zip-lock bags and more. A few monetary donations have also come in, Benjamin Costa said.

Those will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, said club advisers Aimee Matlock and Rosalyn Elliott. The donations drive will continue into the coming week.

Donations can be dropped off at Roosevelt, 1330 College Ave. For more information, call the school at (209)576-4871.

On the firefighting front, a key highway into Yosemite that has been closed for three weeks is finally open again. U.S. Forest Service officials said State Route 120, also known as Tioga Road, was reopened Saturday.

An update that went out Saturday night said Evergreen Road is open to Evergreen Lodge, and Big Oak Flat Road is open to Yosemite Valley. Local businesses are open and providing services such as gasoline, food and lodging for travelers. Cherry Lake Road remains closed at Highway 120; Old Yosemite and Hardin Flat roads are closed; and some secondary roads within the fire area remain closed to nonresidents.

The fire is now 81percent contained, with full containment expected by Friday. It began Aug.17 when a hunter allowed a campfire to get out of control, and grew to what has become the third-largest wildfire in California history.

The Rim fire has burned 400 square miles, destroyed 11 residences and threatened 438 structures. Its cost to date is $111.3million. At one point, more than 5,000 firefighters from 41 states were battling the blaze; total personnel now is at 1,935.

Saturday, crews held and improved containment lines. Pockets of vegetation continue to burn, and anyone traveling roads within the fire area should use caution as fire personnel and equipment continue to work. Hazards include smoke, weakened trees that may fall, and hot burning stump holes.

For more information, call Rim Fire command at (805)727-4775. Updated information is also available at

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