Why The Yosemite Fire Is Especially Scary

Maggie Severns | The Atlantic Cities | August 27, 2013

No one knows what started the Rim Fire, the 160,000 acre blaze that's ripping through the western side of Yosemite National Park. But nearly 4,000 firefighters have been dispatched to try to stop it using helicopters, bulldozers, and flame retardants. Although the situation is starting to look up—20 percent of the fire is now contained, up from 7 percent just two days ago—the authorities predict the fire will keep spreading, and fast, in days to come.

There are many reasons to be concerned about such a fire in Yosemite, even if you don't live in California: For starters, it's in our premier national park. Yosemite, which is about the size of Rhode Island, sees around 4 million visitors per year and is home to iconic groves of sequoia trees, endangered species like the California big horn sheep, and some of the most notorious peaks in the country, such as Half Dome and El Capitan. But the very things that make Yosemite so beautiful—its pristine condition, steep ravines, and tall trees—are also fueling this fire and making it difficult to contain.

Here are a few factors that make this fire especially terrifying: