Nearly 200 square miles of California is on fire Saturday, with smoke from the Stanislaus National Forest wafting as far as San Francisco, 200 miles west.
Firefighters estimate that they’ve only contained about 5 percent of the fire, and is large enough to create its own weather patterns, making it hard to predict, the AP reported.
“As the smoke column builds up it breaks down and collapses inside of itself, sending downdrafts and gusts that can go in any direction,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said to the AP. “There’s a lot of potential for this one to continue to grow.”
In addition to the more than 5,500 homes that the fire threatens — four of which have been destroyed — the fire is spreading toward the northwest edge of Yosemite National Park. Two groves of giant sequoias are threatened by the flames, leaving officials to clear brush and set sprinklers in hopes of saving them.
Wildfires this year have been so prevalent, the U.S. Forest Service has almost completely depleted its budget for fighting wildfires, according to ThinkProgress.com. The Forest Service’s wildfire fighting budget has been subject to the same sequester cuts as other agencies, leaving it slashed by $115 million cuts this year.
Watch coverage of the Rim Fire blaze in California below.