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Rim Fire Near Yosemite Likely to Surpass 2007 Zaca Fire in Size

At 240,207 acres, the sprawling blaze in Santa Barbara County is No. 3 on the list of California's biggest wildfires

The giant Rim Fire raging in and around Yosemite National Park appears likely to move ahead of Santa Barbara County's 2007 Zaca Fire on the list of California's largest wildfires.

The Zaca Fire broke out in the Santa Ynez Valley on July 4, 2007, and blackened 240,207 acres before finally being corralled nearly two months later.

As of Sunday, the Zaca Fire was third on the list of the state's largest fires, behind the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County (273,246 acres) and the 2012 Rush Fire in Lassen County (271,911 acres plus 43,666 acres in Nevada).

The Rim Fire, which ignited Aug. 17 near Groveland in the Stanislaus National Forest, had burned 231,088 acres, and was 60 percent contained, as of Monday morning. Full containment has been estimated for Sept. 20.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, although a Tuolomne County official has suggested it may be linked to an illegal marijuana grow.

Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeal told an Aug. 23 community meeting that officials "know it's human caused, there’s no lightning in the area. ... (We) highly suspect that it might be some sort of illicit grove, marijuana grow-type thing.”

U.S. Forest Service officials have declined to comment on McNeal's remarks.

The Zaca Fire was sparked by a work crew using a grinding machine to repair a water line on private land near Zaca Lake north of Los Olivos.

The blaze eventually blackened much of the Santa Barbara backcountry, including major swaths of Los Padres National Forest and the San Rafael Wilderness, before being contained on Sept. 2, 2007.

Only one structure was burned — a U.S. Forest Service outbuilding — but more than 40 people were injured fighting the fire, and suppression costs were estimated in excess of $118 million.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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