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Despite Shutdown, Rim Fire Recovery Moves Forward

US Forest Service BAER Team

National parks across the country may be off-limits to visitors due to the government shutdown, but in the Sierra, it hasn’t stopped efforts to recover from the Rim Fire.

A crew of around 50 fire response specialists are still on the job in the Stanislaus National Forest and in Yosemite National Park.

“We have an emergency situation going on, so we have funding for emergency stabilization treatments during the furlough because of life and property and safety - so we are allowed to continue to work,” says Anna Payne, a spokeswoman for the Burned Area Emergency Response effort of the Forest Service.

"We have an emergency situation going on . . . so we are allowed to continue to work." - Anna Payne, Forest Service

A few weeks ago the team received $300,000 for safety measures, like repairing road signs and felling hazardous burnt trees devastated by the fire.  Then on Monday, hours before the government shut down, the Forest Service allocated another $4 million dollars to help prevent flooding and erosion.

“We have a couple of areas where there is a sensitive habit and if we can help in that process by putting that woody debris on the ground to stabilize the soil that’s where the higher priority treatments will be,” Payne says.

She also says anyone living in the fire area should pay special attention to the weather as soon as it starts to rain this fall.

Firefighters are currently monitoring the last eight percent of the blaze still burning in wilderness areas between Cherry Lake and HetchHetchy Reservoir. Full containment is expected by Sunday.

So far the fire has burned over 250,000 acres. The total fire effort has cost over $126 million. 

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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