Yosemite forest fire was started by hunter, US Forest Service says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 2013, 4:37am


A gigantic forest fire in and around the Yosemite National Park in California was caused by an illegal fire lit by a hunter, the US Forest Service said.

The agency said there was no indication the hunter was involved with illegal marijuana cultivation, which a local fire chief had speculated may have caused the blaze.

No arrests have been made, and the hunter's name is being withheld pending further investigation, according to the Forest Service.

The only legal hunting allowed at the time the fire started on August 17 was archery for bear and deer.

A Forest Service statement gave no details of how the illegal fire in a remote canyon had escaped the hunter's control.

Because of high fire danger across the region, the Forest Service had banned fires outside of developed camping areas more than a week before the fire started.

The Yosemite fire has burned nearly 961 square kilometres - making it one of the largest wildfires in California history - and has cost US$81 million to fight.

In some cases, people who have started wildfires in California have been sued to pay for the costs and damages.

Forest Service spokesman Ray Mooney said he was not immediately able to get more information from investigators.

Officials said 111 structures, including 11 homes, have been destroyed. Thousands of firefighters were called in to battle the blaze, which at one point threatened more than 4,000 structures. The blaze is now 80 per cent contained.

Fire managers say they expect the blaze to continue burning for several more weeks and warned that a resumption of gusty winds "could challenge containment lines".

Less than a third of the total burned acreage lies inside the Yosemite park.