Massive California fire requires national disaster resources

The massive wildfire that has engulfed the area in and around the Yosemite National Park and the shores of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is still burning strong despite efforts to contain it. The fire is causing such damage and continuing to such a degree that federal agencies and funds are being called in to help.

Fire threatens San Francisco water supply
Because the fire is encroaching on the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the water taps of over 2.6 million Bay Area residents are being threatened. The Associated Press reported that so far water managers who operate the reservoir claim that the water quality has not been compromised. Fears of ash and soot falling into the body of water and contaminating it has led officials to issue warnings that the water drawn for all taps comes from the bottom of the reservoir and there are backup supplies available if necessary. 

The news source reported that the real risk from the fire concerning water quality is that Hetch Hetchy's once pristine waters may be sullied from the eroding hillsides caused by the fire. Burned earth will be unable to absorb the rain that is typical for the area during the fall and the lack of plant life and root systems holding the earth down and in place is gone due to the fire. 

"Landslides are absolutely a concern," said Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, according to the news source. "Trees promote stability, and if you lose the trees you may get mass movement of the soil. And if the fire is a really hot one and it scorches the soil surface, the soil becomes less penetrable." 

National resources used to help contain the fire
The massive Rim Fire that is located in and near California's famous Yosemite National Park has been burning since August 17. Fierce Homeland Security reported that the fast-moving fire has already caused $39.2 million in damaged and injured four firefighters. 

The fire is the sixth largest in California history and has burned 301 square miles of land as of August 29, 2013. According to the source, it is still threatening about 4,500 structures and is only 30 percent contained. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal fire management assistance grants for the state to use to fight the fire on August 26. This is expected to help fund efforts to extinguish the flames by a deadline of September 10. By authorizing the use of these federal funds, FEMA is allowing the state to be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of all fire-fighting costs. 

Multi-disciplinary training required to fight mass fires
Fires like these can take their toll on both people and property, which is why it is important that those who are employed to fire them are able to trust and communicate with backup teams that they may be unfamiliar with personally. Firefighting requires expert knowledge and communication skills to ensure that everyone remains safe. When teams are split up or working with new members due to federal and nearby agencies coming in to help firefighting efforts, it is important that everyone out in the field can be counted on. Training tracking and individual responder skills data provides leaders the information they need to make decisions on who should be paired with who and what personnel have the experience necessary for tasks.

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