The Rim fire has expanded to cover more than 180,000 acres and encroach further into Yosemite National Park, and the Geronimo Hotshots elite Native firefighting team has sprung into action.
Hailing from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, the team is one of seven American Indian elite firefighting crews in the U.S., National Public Radio reported on August 27. One of its members, 25-year-old Jose Alvarez Santi Jr., said he welcomes the chance not only to fight a fire but also to serve as an ambassador of sorts representing the San Carlos Apache to those who may not know much about American Indians.
"We come from a people that were pushed around, shoved into reservations, and to me, I want our people to show that we can do a lot of things other than being pushed around and shoved around," he told NPR. "It's a good feeling."
As of late Tuesday August 28, the fire had consumed 187,466 acres, destroyed more than 100 structures and threatened at least 5,000 more. It was 23 percent contained as of early Wednesday, InciWeb reported. It had also threatened to dump ash into a reservoir serving San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, though that danger appeared to have abated by Tuesday.
Known as the Rim fire, the blaze—the sixth worst in California history—is mostly outside of Yosemite, though growing within the borders of the iconic national park. Although several areas of the park are closed, the main valley is protected by its granite walls.
The fire started 12 days ago and now has nearly 4,100 firefighters battling it, the Los Angeles Times reported. Clouds of smoke drifted over Nevada, the Los Angeles Times said. It had destroyed 111 buildings, including the cabins of the famed Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp, which since 1922 had been a gathering spot for more than 3,500 campers every year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Two pilots captured this footage of the fire as it menaced Yosemite on August 22.