The Rim fire burning in and around Yosemite National Park became the fourth-largest blaze in California history as it grew to 348 square miles Sunday, officials said.
More than 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which began Aug. 17 and is 40 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service. A September 1932 fire in Ventura County that burned 343 square miles previously held the fourth-place spot, Cal Fire said.
San Diego’s 427-square-mile Cedar fire, which destroyed more than 2,800 structures and killed 14 people in October 2003, remains the largest wildfire in state history.
Crews are making good progress on the Rim fire, particularly on its northwest side, though winds sparked new spot fires and the blaze is continuing to expand to the northeast, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Trevor Augustino said.
Winds have declined from earlier in the week, and a short rain shower Saturday night and higher humidity levels have helped mitigate some of the fire danger, he said.
“Any rain we get would be a tremendous asset,” he said, adding that the drought conditions and rugged, remote terrain have been challenging for firefighters.
Wind shifts Friday pushed smoke into the Yosemite Valley, which appeared hazy with decreased visibility Sunday afternoon in webcam images from around the park. Another shift in the wind is expected Monday or Tuesday, which should help clear the smoke out of the area, park ranger Kari Cobb said.
There has been a noticeable decline in visitors to the park, she said, partly because of the fire’s smoke but also because of road closures.
The Rim fire has destroyed 111 structures, 11 of them residential, and is expected to be contained Sept. 20, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. No structures inside the national park have been lost, Cobb said. The cause remains under investigation.