The Rim fire continued to devour thousands of acres of brush, pine and oak trees as it burned out of control near Yosemite National Park.
The wildfire had consumed 63,366 acres as of Thursday and threatened 2,500 homes around Pine Mountain Lake near Groveland. Containment was at 1% as more than 1,849 firefighters and other personnel battled the blaze in the Stanislaus National Forest.
The blaze was expected to continue up the Tuolumne River canyon and spread north and east.
Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Hanvelt said there has not been a fire of this magnitude in his county since the Stanislaus Complex fire a quarter century ago.
In the summer of 1987, dry weather and parched vegetation were the catalysts for a dry-lightning fire that burned 147,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest. The Stanislaus Complex fire killed one firefighter and forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 people from their mountain homes.
"This is running the same footprint as the 1987 complex fire," Hanvelt said. "It has the potential of being very, very dangerous. But we have the best possible teams involved. Cal Fire is doing a great job."
Gov. Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency Thursday for Tuolumne County after county officials requested he do so.
Tuolumne County Administrator Craig Pedro said in a news release that the governor's declaration "opens the doors for additional state resources" to fight the fire, as well as financial help with the costs and recovery from the fire. He added the declaration makes it possible for the county to seek federal financial help with the fire.
The Rim fire started Saturday in a remote area near Groveland. It nearly quadrupled in size from Wednesday to Thursday, growing from more than 16,000 acres to 63,366 acres. Highway 120 into Yosemite remains closed.
It has destroyed two homes, seven outbuildings and three commercial buildings.
The fire has shrouded much of the county in smoke, leaving some people with stinging eyes, scratchy throats and trouble breathing.
The county's Public Health Department is advising vulnerable people, such as the elderly, to limit their time outdoors. Sonora schools are taking precautions with their students, such as keeping them indoors when the air quality is poor.
Officials have closed campgrounds along Highway 120 and were asking residents living near Pine Mountain Lake to consider leaving their homes.
Tuolumne County officials also revoked the permit for the annual Strawberry Music Festival, which had been scheduled to take place on Labor Day weekend at Camp Mather near Yosemite National Park. The officials cited the wildfire's potential risks to public health and safety.
Thursday evening, the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department issued an evacuation order for residents north of Ferretti Road to Elderberry Road because of the immediate threat to life and property.
The Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora. Fifty-eight people spent Wednesday there, with officials expecting more Thursday evening.
Bob and Shirley Haliwell left their Pine Mountain Lake home and spent Wednesday night in their travel trailer at the fairgrounds. They had planned to take a short trip through Idaho, Montana, Canada, Washington and Oregon. But they have reconsidered that now that much of western United States is on fire and their home remains at risk.
"We don't want to leave without knowing what will happen," Bob Haliwell, 69, said. "And I really don't want to go to Idaho with all that smoke and fire."
So the Haliwells will stay put at the fairgrounds along with other Pine Mountain Lake neighbors.
Others stayed with their Pine Mountain Lake homes.
Wayne Wilkins, 67, did not want to leave, though he had taken precautions by moving his recreational vehicle and two horses out of harm's way. He also had packed his and wife Merrily's keepsakes and other valuables in case he had to leave in a hurry.
Flames got within five miles of their home Wednesday before firefighters knocked down the fire. "If they come by and say it's a mandatory evacuation, I'm ready to go," Wilkins said.
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