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Local News

Rim Fire Bumps Santa Barbara County’s Zaca Fire as Third Largest in State History

The blaze, not yet fully contained, so far has claimed 256,895 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park

As crews continue to battle the Rim Fire in Northern California, that blaze now has surpassed Santa Barbara County's Zaca Fire as the third largest in California's history.

The Rim Fire, which was 84 percent contained as of Wednesday, has now claimed 256,895 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

The fire has been burning for more than a month since fire crews reported the blaze on Aug. 17.  The cause of the wildfire is still under investigation, though authorities have stated the fire was sparked by a hunter's campfire.

The Rim Fire's acreage now tops that of the Zaca Fire, which broke out in the Santa Ynez Valley on July 4, 2007, and roared through over 240,000 acres before crews completely extinguished the blaze two months later.

An investigation found that the fire had been sparked by a work crew using a grinding machine to repair a water line on private land near Zaca Lake north of Los Olivos.

Forty people were injured in the blaze, and suppression costs were estimated to be in excess of $118 million.

Many local crews and resources were sent as a part of a mutual aid agreement to battle the Rim Fire, though most of those resources are back within the county now.

Los Padres National Forest spokesman Andrew Madsen told Noozhawk last week that most of the forest crews that were assisting on the Rim Fire are back in the area.

"The Southern California fire season is right around the corner so we’re working to staff up here ahead of that," he said.

Capt. David Sadecki also reported last week that the Santa Barbara County Fire Department had four personnel assigned in overhead positions on the fire and no equipment working the fire.

Authorities have been working to assess soil damage in the denuded areas because much of the Rim Fire area is also a watershed, and runoff could threaten water quality in several important reservoirs serving communities in the Bay Area and Northern Central Valley.

Leading the Rim Fire are the Rush Fire, a Lassen County fire that burned 271,911 acres in California and 43,666 acres in Nevada, sparked by lightning in August 2012.

The biggest wildfire recorded is the Cedar Fire, which claimed 273, 246 acres in San Diego County in October 2003. That fire resulted in 14 deaths and 2,820 structures being destroyed in its wake.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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