Mother Nature gave weary firefighters battling the Rim Fire in and around Yosemite National Park a little help Sunday as showers were forecasted to fall in the area.
While the rain will help, the forecast wasn’t completely good news. Forecasters said some of the storm cells may bring with them the threat of lightning.
Overnight, firefighters were able to expand the containment of the blaze from 35 percent to 40 percent. Still the area charred by the wildfire had grown to 348 square miles making it the fourth largest wildfire in state history.
A 1932 blaze that scorched 344 square miles in Ventura County previously stood as the state's fourth-largest wildfire.
A 427-square-mile fire in San Diego County that killed 14 people a decade ago tops the list.
Meanwhile, authorities say smoke from the fire will continue to affect the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas through Labor Day weekend.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the regional air quality will continue to vary depending on fire behavior and wind conditions.
Deutschendorf says the sky may clear at times, only to darken with smoke hours later.
For the first time since the blaze broke out in a neighboring forest two weeks ago, smoke obscured Yosemite Valley, home to the park's most popular landmarks, on Saturday, spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.
"I'm in Yosemite Valley right now, and I cannot see the cliffs around me," Cobb said. "The wind has shifted and smoke is impacting the entire park. We have been lucky until now."
All the campgrounds in the Valley still were full as of Saturday morning, despite the thick blanket and burning smell that permeated the area and was expected to linger until at least Monday, she said.
As a health precaution, visitors were being asked to scale back their outdoor recreation plans and avoid strenuous activities or even stay indoors.
Meanwhile, firefighting aircraft were grounded most of Saturday morning because of low visibility caused by the smoke, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mark Healey said.
The blaze had scorched 348 square miles of brush, oaks and pines and 11 homes -- an area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined.
Of that total, 94 square miles of wilderness have burned in the northern section of Yosemite, up from 75 square miles a day earlier.
Healey said fresh firefighters were being brought in to replace tired crews, but that officials did not plan to reduce the nearly 5,000 people assigned to the blaze.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.
Santa Claus is visiting the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA’s new adoption center on three dates in December, giving local residents an opportunity to have their pets pose for a holiday keepsake photo.