Ash from Yosemite wildfire drops into San Francisco reservoir
TUOLUMNE CITY, Calif. — A raging wildfire in Yosemite National Park rained ash on the reservoir that is the chief source of San Francisco's pure drinking water, and utility officials on Monday scrambled to send more water toward the metropolitan area before it becomes tainted.
Nearly 3,700 firefighters battled the approximately 230-square-mile Rim fire, the biggest wildfire on record in California's Sierra Nevada. They reported modest progress, saying the fire was 15 percent contained.
“We're not there yet, but we're starting to get a little bit of a handle on this thing,” said Lee Bentley, fire spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. “It's been a real tiger. He's been going around trying to bite its own tail, and it won't let go, but we'll get there.”
Utility officials monitored the clarity of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and used a $4.6 billion gravity-operated pipeline system to move water quickly to reservoirs closer to the big city. The Hetch Hetchy supplies water to 2.6 million people in the San Francisco Bay area, 150 miles away.
“We're taking advantage that the water we're receiving is still of good quality,” said Harlan Kelly Jr., general manager of the city's Public Utilities Commission. “We're bringing down as much water as possible and replenishing all of the local reservoirs.”
At the same time, utility officials gave assurances that they have a six-month supply of water in reservoirs near the Bay area.
So far, the ash that has been raining onto the Hetch Hetchy has not sunk as far as the intake valves, which are about halfway down the 300-foot O'Shaughnessy Dam. Utility officials said the ash is nontoxic but the city will begin filtering water for customers if problems are detected.
On Monday, the fire was miles away from the steep granite canyon where the reservoir is nestled, but several spot fires were burning closer, and firefighters were protecting hydroelectric transmission lines and other utility facilities.
“Obviously we're paying close attention to the city's water supply,” said Glen Stratton, an operations chief on the fire suppression team.
Power generation at the reservoir was shut down last week so that firefighters would not be imperiled by live wires. San Francisco is buying replacement power from other sources to run City Hall and other municipal buildings.
It has been at least 17 years since fire ravaged the northernmost stretch of Yosemite that is under siege.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Judge orders W.Va. agency to release pollution data
- Man caught jumping White House fence
- Coburn’s final ‘Wastebook’ tallies $25B in what he considers ‘pork’
- Ho-hum winter predicted
- Alleged trooper killer may have been seen Friday
- Virginia police hunt for clues near where body found
- Riots shake Keene State College in New Hampshire
- Hawaii residents relax as Hurricane Ana threat eases
- Governor to form Ferguson Commission to study underlying social issues in shooting
- Social Security recipients to get increase in benefits
- Academic scandal at University of North Carolina bigger than previously reported