Possible lead on cause of state's fourth-largest fire - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Possible lead on cause of state's fourth-largest fire

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  • Sierra wildfire now California's fourth-largest

    Sierra wildfire now California's fourth-largest

    Sunday, September 1 2013 4:29 PM EDT2013-09-01 20:29:50 GMT
    The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in modern California history, fire officials said Sunday as clouds and higher  
    The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in modern California history, fire officials said Sunday as clouds and higher humidity helped crews further contain the biggest blaze in the United States this year. 

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The massive wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has hit a new milestone.

The two-week old blaze moved up a spot on the state's list of large wildfires when it grew to 348 square miles.

The Rim Fire is roughly the size of New York City and the big question is, how did it start?

"It started down in the brush. We know it was human caused because there was no lightning in the area. But we don't know the exact cause, what it was."

That's Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeal giving local residents an update on the blaze. While the exact cause remains a mystery, what he says next may offer a clue.

"Highly suspected some sort of illicit grove, marijuana grove type of thing. It doesn't really matter at this point," he said.

The area is no stranger to illegal grow operations. In June, the sheriff's department pulled 15,000 pot plants from a nearby area in the Sierra National Forest.

Whatever the cause, the Rim Fire continues to grow. It's now around 350 square miles, making it the fourth largest fire in the state's history.

"I've never seen a fire in California this intense, or this important," said Mike McMillan.

The fire is keeping incident commanders like Mike McMillan very busy. They've managed to set up a containment line with the help of an unmanned aerial drone. It gives firefighters an idea of where the fire is headed.

"What we're planning to do with Yosemite is to use fire and natural barriers to stop the fire where we can without losing the precious resources that we all enjoy and know Yosemite for," said McMillan.

Many businesses in the area are feeling the effects of the fire. Labor Day weekend is supposed to be a time for people like Tory Moss to cash in. She books vacation rentals.

"It's the biggest weekend of the year for us, it's like the Fourth of July, um... every home that we have was booked," said Moss.

The reservations had to be canceled, a $20,000 loss. Just another person hurt by the ripple effect of this roaring fire.

Officials say the cause of the fire is still unknown but under investigation. One official told a local paper that they're making progress on that investigation but they can't release any other details.

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