No holiday for wildfire firefighters

While people across the Bay Area enjoyed barbecues or a day at the beach for the warm Labor Day holiday, thousands of firefighters remained on the job battling several major wildfires across the state.

Cal Fire officials say more than 7,500 firefighters are working mostly in remote areas and in rugged terrain as they struggle to control seven wildfires burning in the vast forests that cover far Northern California, in the remote stretches of the Sierra, and in the arid foothills in Southern California.

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told SFBay:

“Unfortunately fires know no holidays. With several fires burning across the state our firefighters are very, very busy.  Our firefighters are still laboring away, even on Labor Day.”

The biggest fire — a monstrous inferno called the Rim Fire, burning in and near Yosemite National Park — has scorched nearly 357 square miles. The area consumed by the blaze covers more territory than the cities of San Francisco and Oakland combined.

Though there was what fire officials describe as “active fire behavior” on the south and east sides of the fire late Sunday and early Monday, crews also made “great progress” on the northwestern edge of the blaze.

Berlant says with the progress, fire officials were able to send some firefighters home:

“We were able to release some crews early, 500 or so.”

Still, about 4,600 firefighters remained on the lines Monday.

Meanwhile, weekend travel was impacted across the Yosemite area, usually a popular Labor Day destination for Bay Area vacationers and others.

On Monday, mandatory evacuations remained in place south of Highway 120 towards Yosemite National Park.

And the Tioga Road — part of Highway 120, a scenic and popular route across the Sierra — remained closed through the park from Crane Flat to the Yosemite Creek Picnic Area.

While most of Yosemite remains open, officials say variable winds are causing periods of smoky conditions throughout much of  the park. When conditions are smoky, officials are warning visitors to take it easy and avoid strenuous activities.

Cal Fire officials say the blaze — the fourth largest in state’s history —  is now 60 percent contained, but 100 percent containment is not expected until Sept. 20.

Fire crews are also battling a new fire on the Tule Indian Reservation, south of Fresno, a blaze that has scorched more than 34 square miles near Huntington Lake in the Sierra, and fires from Butte County south to San Bernardino County.