Thankfully, the El Portal Fire, which has been burning over a week at the western edge of Yosemite National Park and in Stanislaus National Forest, is now 96 percent contained after burning 4,689 acres and costing the state at least $10 million. All evacuation orders have been lifted, and crews are now working on the cleanup effort.
The fire, which began on July 26 and raged for much of last week, burned almost 1,000 acres inside the borders of Yosemite, and caused damage in the communities of Foresta and El Portal. It's expected to reach full containment by August 9.
Luckily, due to the efforts of at least 1,000 firefighters and favorable weather and geographic conditions, this fire did not become the massive conflagration that was the Rim Fire, which scorched 257,314 acres just to the north last summer. Rim Fire is the third biggest fire in the state's recorded history.
Meanwhile, another, larger fire, the French Fire, is currently burning to the south of the El Portal Fire, and has burned almost 13,000 acres in Madera County as of Sunday. It's now 30 percent contained. There are two other fires burning deep in Northern California, the Whites Fire and the Day fire, as you can see on the satellite image above, taken on August 1.
Scientists are still assessing the damage of the Rim Fire one year later, as CBS just reported, noting that within the 400 square miles set fire are "a solid 60 square miles that burned so intensely that everything is dead." While some of the burned areas left some trees charred but alive, about 40 percent of Rim Fire's area is now "nothing but charred land" and "a contiguous barren moonscape."
There are only two bits of good news there: 1) the parts of Yosemite that were burned by the Rim Fire amounted to only 77,000 acres of wilderness, only 7 percent of which was considered to be intensely burned; and 2) the soil damage from the fire is much less than anticipated, with only around 7 percent of the burned area suffering serious, erosion-promoting soil damage.