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UPDATE: Yosemite Fire Now Over 4,900 Acres, 23 Percent Contained

UPDATE: 9/11/14 - 12:10 PM
The Meadow Fire has now consumed 4,906 acres and is 23 percent contained. Officials say that they expect spot fires to flare outside the existing perimeter today due to warmer temperatures and low humidity. The fire is burning on both side of the Merced River in Little Yosemite Valley between Mount Starr King and Half Dome.  Park officials also say that fire conditions have improved enough to reopen the Half Dome cables and the associated trail on Saturday for day-use only.

UPDATE: 9/10/14 - 5:50 PM
Yosemite National Park Spokeswoman Kari Cobb says the Meadow Fire has now grown to 4,532 acres, and the fire is just 10 percent contained. Cobb says 407 firefighters are currently battling the fire and no injuries have been reported so far. 

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UPDATE: 9/9/14 - 11:35 AM
Officials with Yosemite National Park now say the Meadow Fire has grown to 4,400 acres, and the fire is just five percent contained. According to park spokesperson Kari Cobb, around 30 percent of that acreage is made up of granite rocks or outcroppings. 327 firefighters are currently battling the blaze.

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ORIGINAL POST:

The Meadow Fire burning in the high county of Yosemite National Park has now consumed over 2,600 acres. The fire is burning in a wilderness area on both sides of the Merced River in and around Little Yosemite Valley.

On Sunday, 85 hikers and climbers were evacuated from Half Dome via helicopter.  Another 100 hikers and backpackers were evacuated from Little Yosemite Valley.

Trails in the area are closed, but all roads within the park remain open.  Officials advise that visitors to Yosemite Valley may experience smoky conditions due to the fire. 

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Credit Rachael Kirk
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Rachael Kirk, in red, and her friends decided to climb Half Dome Sunday.

Twenty-six year old Rachael Kirk knew there was a fire burning in Yosemite, because she saw it burning Saturday on a hike to Clouds Rest, a peak reaching just under 10,000 feet in Yosemite National Park. The little fire was lit by lighting a few weeks back.

“From Clouds Rest you could see the fire and we had read that it had been contained and it was really, really small looking,” Kirk says.

Authorities like park spokeswoman Kari Cobb think the blaze reported Sunday could have been started by the smaller fire.“On Sunday we got reports that there was a new fire in the area just east of half dome and near little Yosemite Valley,” Kobb says. “It was initially reported at about 400 acres.”

But even still Kirk and her two friends from college wanted to climb Half Dome, but didn’t have permits because of high demand.

"There was one woman who had severely freaked out on the way up and someone had strapped her in with a rope to a carabineer and basically carried her up the mountain." - Rachael Kirk

We had originally applied for Saturday and we were denied, but decided to enter Friday for Sunday and still go to Yosemite and hope for the best,” Kirk says. “We actually got cell phone reception on top of Clouds Rest and our permits came through.”

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Credit Rachael Kirk
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The group of 85 hikers and climbers were rescued off of Half Dome over a 5 hour period.

After hiking the over seven miles to the base of Half Dome Kirk and her two friends Alexa and Travis began the cable ascent up one of the most sought after treks on the globe.

“Alexa was too scared to do the cables so she stayed back,” Kirk says. “I got maybe 100 feet up and decided it was too hard and I wasn’t going to do it.”

But when the blaze became too much Kirk and her friends were forced to climb the 400 feet to the makeshift helipad where she’d be rescued.    

“You had really advanced climbers and people who’d done Half Dome multiple times or people who just weren’t scared who were coaching everyone through it,” Kirks says.  “There was one woman who had severely freaked out on the way up and someone had strapped her in with a rope to a carabineer and basically carried her up the mountain.”

For Kirk the climb turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.

“I actually was lucky enough to do a helicopter ride of the Grand Canyon and I can honestly say that doing a helicopter ride of Yosemite was . . . I don’t want to say 10 times more beautiful but was definitely a unique and amazing experience,” Kirk says.

And Kobb with Yosemite says a public helicopter ride over the park does not happen often.

“I actually talked to a couple people who were able to be helicoptered off of Half Dome and even Little Yosemite Valley and even though their hiking trips got cut short they still got this once in a lifetime amazing experience on a helicopter flying over Yosemite Valley,” Kobb says.

And for those 185 hikers and climbers who were helicoptered out Sunday they witnessed a view that very few do.

Correction: The first draft of this story stated Rachael Kirk's age as 22, but was erroneous and her age is actually 26. 

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of Valley Public Radio. During his tenure, he's helped lead the station through major programming changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the station's financial health. From 2010-2018 he served as the station's Director of Program Content. In that role, he also served as the host of Valley Edition, and helped launch and grow the station's award-winning local news department. He is a Fresno native and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.
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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