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California Wildfire Threatens San Francisco Water Supply

Matt Ball on August 27, 2013 - in Projects, Supply, Water

The Western wildfire season continues to rage in California, with the Rim Fire posing a threat to a reservoir that supplies a majority of San Francisco’s drinking water. The massive blaze started Aug. 17 and has now burned 144,000 acres, including 11,000 acres of wilderness in Yosemite National Park. As of Sunday (Aug. 25) the fire was within several miles of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides the majority of San Francisco’s drinking water. (See graphic above from Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.)

City officials remain confident the fire can be kept at bay. Officials in Montana and Idaho, meanwhile, are seeing progress in their battles against wildfires, specifically the Lolo Creek and Gold Pan fires. Read stories in the Missoulian about how an evacuation order has been lifted for the Lolo Creek Fire but how officials say it will still require a “season-ending event” to completely end both fires.

Without question, it has been another difficult wildfire season in the West, with more than 500,000 acres burned in Idaho and the cost of fighting fires across the West now topping $1 billion. Given the size of the California fires and other ongoing Western fires, the season’s cost will continue to close in on last year’s record $1.9 billion price tag for fighting fires.

The ongoing cost of fighting wildfires makes improved management of forests a high priority. Read the latest letter from the Western Governors’ Association to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on how forest management can be improved.

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