A hunter’s illegally set fire sparked the massive blaze that torched parts of Yosemite National Park, the U.S. Forest Service announced on September 5.
As more than 3,000 firefighters, including elite American Indian units, brought the 371-square-mile Rim fire to 80 percent containment, the U.S. Forest Service announced that the fire, which began in a remote canyon of Stanislaus National Forest on August 17, had been started “when a hunter allowed an illegal fire to escape.”
Though previous reports had speculated that the fire might be related to illegal marijuana farming, that appears not to have been the case.
“There is no indication the hunter was involved with illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands and no marijuana cultivation sites were located near the origin of the fire,” said the forest service in a statement. “No arrests have been made at this time.”
The hunter’s identity was also being withheld as the investigation continued, the forest service said, noting that it had cost $81 million to fight the blaze, known as the Rim fire. Although there was no sign of marijuana cultivation near where the fire started, there also was no record of a lightning strike.
With at least 66,155 acres of the 237,341-acre fire within Yosemite National Park, it was the biggest fire in the park since 1930, the San Jose Mercury News reported. It still comprises just seven percent of the 761,268 acres that make up Yosemite, the newspaper said. The Ackerson fire of 1996 burned 59,153 acres inside the park, the Mercury News said.
The forest service expected full containment by September 20. Elite Native American crews were among the 4,000-plus firefighters who were sent out to battle the blaze.