Campers lament fire at Yosemite

75,000 hectares rav­aged as blaze pum­mels through national park

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By JONATHAN KAMINSKY in Yosemite, Cal­i­for­nia

Last month, Lance Batten was walk­ing the trails around Berke­ley Tuolumne Camp in the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tain range in Cal­i­for­nia, singing the fa­mil­iar songs of his sum­mer­time refuge go­ing back 26 years.

This week, the 62-year-old re­tired com­puter pro­gram­mer sat in his Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, home re­flect­ing on the dam­age a mon­strous fire in­flicted in re­cent days when it de­stroyed a large swath of the time­less spot in the woods that Batten re­mem­bers so fondly.

He took his chil­dren to the camp when they were small and in July he brought his grand­chil­dren.

“It’s not just the mem­o­ries. A piece of your life is wiped out and gone,” Batten said. “No mat­ter what hap­pens, it will never be the same.”

The so- called Rim Fire, which has burned nearly 75,000 hectares, con­tin­ues to push into Yosemite National Park while threat­en­ing 4,500 homes along its north­west­ern flank. As of Tues­day night, it was 20 per­cent con­tained.

In ad­di­tion to rav­aging the Berke­ley Tuolumne Fam­ily Camp, it has also claimed at least one cabin in Camp Ta­wonga, a Jewish camp about 13 km north in­side the Stanis­laus National For­est.

The struc­tures of other nearby camps re­main un­touched, the Tuolumne County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice spokesman, Sergeant Scott John­son, said on Tues­day.

But at the Berke­ley Tuolumne Camp, most of the build­ings — which in­clude 72 tent-top cab­ins and a com­mu­nal din­ing hall — have been de­stroyed, said Berke­ley city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The 91- year- old camp was a sum­mer­time refuge for fam­i­lies across north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, and par­tic­u­larly for res­i­dents of Berke­ley, who en­joyed pri­or­ity in re­serv­ing space there, Chakko said.

The camp had been fully booked for the rest of the sum­mer, Chakko noted, and its oc­cu­pants were evac­u­ated five days be­fore the fire came.

Far­ing bet­ter but still not out of dan­ger was Camp Ta­wonga, which caters to both sec­u­lar and re­li­gious Jewish youth and has oc­cu­pied its 65 hectares since 1964.

The camp’s pri­mary sea­son ended shortly be­fore the fire, so only six staff mem­bers were forced to flee, tak­ing with them the camp’s decades-old To­rah scroll — the Jewish holy text — which sur­vived the Holo­caust. Also evac­u­ated was a tome dat­ing to the 1980s in which campers recorded their sum­mer­time mem­o­ries.

Camp Ta­wonga, which mostly sits on a meadow that is more eas­ily de­fended by fire­fight­ers than the wood­lands, lost one cabin in the blaze. The ex­tent of the dam­age to other parts of the camp, in­clud­ing its gar­den and art­sand-crafts area, is not known, said camp di­rec­tor Jamie Si­mon.

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