YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Crews working to corral the massive wildfire searing the edge of Yosemite National Park made major gains on the blaze overnight.
The fire was 60 percent contained as of Monday morning, up from 45 percent Sunday night, according to California fire officials. The blaze also grew about 9 square miles and now covers more than 357 square miles or 228,670 acres.
Full containment is not expected until Sept. 20.
Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for some south of Highway 120 and Tioga Road west of Yosemite Creek Picnic Area is closed.
Crews will continue building fire lines and burning away the fire’s potential fuel sources on Monday.
The blaze started Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest and two-thirds of the land burned since then is located there as well. The cause is being investigated. More than 5,500 structures are threatened.
Clouds and higher humidity slowed flames from advancing through brush and trees on Sunday, giving firefighters room to set backfires, dig containment lines and to strengthen lines around threatened communities, fire spokesman Trevor Augustino said.
The 2-week-old Rim Fire moved up a spot to fourth on the state’s list of large wildfires dating back to 1932 on Sunday when it grew to 351 square miles — an area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
Meanwhile, the dense smoke that obscured Yosemite’s majestic views for the first time on Saturday and prompted air quality warnings was starting to ease, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.
Although park officials advised visitors to avoid heavy exertion, Cobb said she has seen people outside running “and enjoying Yosemite, despite the smoke.”
“The park was actually busier than I thought it would be,” she said.
A 427-square-mile fire in San Diego County that killed 14 people and destroyed more than 2,800 structures a decade ago tops the list of California’s largest wildfires.
The Rim Fire has claimed 111 structures, 11 of them homes.
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