UPDATE: NBC News (http://bit.ly/16Qvcr4) reports that California Governor Jerry Brown has issued an emergency proclamation for the Rim Fire.
Original Story: The wildfire west of Yosemite National Park has grown to nearly 54,000 acres, making it one of biggest active fires in the nation, reports The San Francisco Chronicle.
More than 1,300 firefighters are battling the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near Groveland (Tuolumne County), but crews are struggling to make headway as they face dried-out hills, gusty canyon winds and nearly inaccessible terrain.
The fire zone is up sharply from the 16,000-acre estimate Wednesday. “It’s growing exponentially,” said Jerry Snyder, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
And the area of containment actually declined, to 2 percent Thursday from 5 percent the day before.
The fire has prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents and occupants of summer camps, including three run by Bay Area cities, since it broke out Saturday. The cause of the blaze is unknown.
Highway 120, one of three main approaches to Yosemite from the west, is closed near Groveland. The park is still open and can be reached via Highway 140 from Modesto and Highway 41 from Fresno.
The fire is moving east toward Yosemite but is still several miles away. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that it will reach there,” Snyder said.
Firefighting efforts are focused on protecting the small communities of Groveland and nearby Pine Mountain Lake, authorities said. Two homes have burned and more than 2,500 are threatened.
The Forest Service has made the Rim Fire battle a top priority, meaning additional fire crews and aircraft are likely to be called in Thursday.
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