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Yosemite fire threatens forests, residents

Firefighters along Highway 120 continued to battle the fierce Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Sunday.

Jae C. Hong /Associated Press

Firefighters along Highway 120 continued to battle the fierce Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Sunday.

GROVELAND, Calif. — As an intense wildfire races across the vast, picturesque Sierra forests, residents in the fire’s path are moving animals and children to safety.

Firefighters are working to keep the fire north of Yosemite National Park out of mountain communities.

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The fire has moved northeast away from Groveland, where smoke gave away to blue skies Sunday. But at the Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne City, the slot machines were quiet as emergency workers took over nearly all of the resort’s 148 hotel rooms.

Hundreds of firefighters were deployed Sunday to protect Tuolumne City and other communities in the path of the Rim Fire. Eight firetrucks and four bulldozers were deployed near a ranch on the west side of Mount Baldy, where two years of drought have created tinder-dry conditions.

‘‘Winds are increasing, so it’s going to be very challenging,’’ said Bjorn Frederickson, a spokesman for the US Forest Service.

The fire continues burning in the remote wilderness area of Yosemite, but park spokesman Tom Medena said it is edging closer to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of San Francisco’s famously pure drinking water.

Despite ash falling like snowflakes on the reservoir and a thick haze of smoke limiting visibility to 100 feet, the quality of the water piped to the city is still good, said officials with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The hydroelectric power generated for the city by the system has been interrupted by the fire, forcing the utility to spend $600,000 to buy power on the open market.

Park employees are continuing their efforts to protect two groves of giant sequoias that are unique to the region by cutting brush and setting sprinklers, Medena said.

The fire has consumed more than 209 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at just 7 percent.

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