A raging forest fire that threatens Yosemite National Park is so large -- 224 square miles -- it can be seen from satellites orbiting earth, and it is controlling its own weather, NASA said Monday.
The natural-color satellite image released by NASA was collected by cameras aboard the Terra satellite on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. Launched in 1999, Terra orbits at an average altitude of 705 km (434 miles)
California fire officials say the fire is so large and is burning with such a force, it has created its own weather pattern, making it difficult to predict which direction it will move, NBC4 in southern California reported.
The fire itself is in control of its own weather.
"As the smoke column builds up it breaks down and collapses inside of itself, sending downdrafts and gusts that can go in any direction," CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the Associated Press. "There's a lot of potential for this one to continue to grow."
Although the Rim Fire is more than 100 miles from the Bay Area, it still could threaten San Francisco's electric supply if it damages the power system originating in O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy reservoir, The San Jose Mercury News reported.
Dense smoke from the fire has been a serious health threat. Health officials in Reno, Nevada report the air quality index in their city is in the "unhealthy" range due to the smoke fallout from the Rim Fire.
The smoke has also created visibility problems for air ambulance services in the Reno. The smoke has prevented them from responding to some emergency calls across the region in the last couple of days, officials said.
The Rim Fire in northeastern California continues to burn on the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and state and federally owned land. The fire began on Aug. 17, and its cause is still currently under investigation. More than 224 square miles have been affected as of Sunday, August 25.
It is only 7 percent contained. Inaccessible terrain, strong winds, and dry conditions all present at this fire make for very difficult fire fighting. The ability for this fire to create havoc spreads far and wide, beyond even the area it is consuming.
The latest on the Rim Fire from inciweb.org:
"The Rim incident is expected to continue to exhibit very large fire growth due to extremely dry fuels and inaccessible terrain. Rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior and hampering suppression efforts. Aerial resources are being effective with MAFFs and VLAT DC-10 air tankers prepping locations in advance of the fires spread toward the Highway 108 corridor and along the eastern perimeter of the fire. The forecasted high winds and high potential for long range spotting however remains a significant concern for fire to advance beyond the retardant lines and allow for fire spread into the communities of Tuolumne City, Twain Harte and Long Barn to the west of the fire and east into the Hetch Hetchy watershed."Update: Sept. 11 - The fire is more than 80 percent contained.