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.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A fire and explosion inside a food vendor's trailer at Fresno Christian High School sent two men to the hospital and injured another on Friday night. 

Just before 6:30 p.m. a blast from a 20-gallon propane tank sent shrapnel as far as 150 feet across Alluvial Avenue. The explosion ripped off the roof and the sides of the trailer, where vendors were serving food prior to the start of a football game on campus. Officials with the Fresno Fire Department say that prior to the explosion employees detected a propane leak and a fire.

This week on Valley Edition we focus on the Rim Fire, animal control in Kern County, mental health issues in the region and the legacy of Bea Franco.

The Fish Fire, which was sparked by lightning  in the remote Golden Trout Wilderness has now grown to over 1,450 acres.

Officials report that the fire is just 7 percent contained. It is burning in a remote area within the Sequoia National Forest about 25 miles northeast of Springville, near the Kern River. The fire has grown by 450 acres since Sunday.

Fire officials from Arizona are managing the blaze. Approximately 213 personnel are battling the fire. Due to the remote nature of the site, supplies must be delivered by helicopter or by pack animals. 

John Smith / Sierra National Forest Official Twitter @Sierra_NF

Update: 9:00 a.m. 8/1/13 - The Aspen Fire has now grown to 16,204 acres and is 40 percent contained.

Update: 9:00 a.m. 7/31/13 - Fire officials say the Aspen Fire has now consumed 14,332 acres and is 35 percent contained.

Update: 5:30 p.m. 7/30/13 - Officials with the Valley Air District have issued a "health cautionary statement" for residents in all valley counties due to smoke from the Aspen Fire.  From a press release issued by the district:

Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

For the second year in a row, California is charging rural homeowners a special fee for fire protection. The bills are coming a bit later than planned, but they are on their way. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the fee's critics are as angry as ever and still hope to overturn it.

California is sending out about 800,000 bills beginning this month. The annual $150 charge is assessed to property owners with homes on land the state is responsible for protecting.

Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Reducing overcrowding at California prisons is not easy. Generally, inmates must either be released or given more space, which is expensive. But there is a third option. Inmates can be sent to fire camps.  That's a cornerstone of Governor Jerry Brown's plan to reduce prison overcrowding in response to a federal court order.  State Government Reporter Katie Orr takes a closer look at what these camps entail.  

Anti-Tax Group Sues Over Fire Prevention Fee

Oct 4, 2012
Ben Adler / Capitol Public Radio

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of California property owners who are charged a fire prevention fee.

The suit by the anti-tax group claims the fee is really a tax requiring a two-thirds vote in the legislature. It seeks to overturn the fee, which costs property owners $150 for every habitable structure on their property.

The suit was filed against the California Department of Forestry and the Board of Equalization. But Association President Jon Coupal places the blame on the legislature.

Cal Fire: Wildfire Danger Still High

Oct 4, 2012
Sierra National Forest

The hot weather is expected to end throughout most of California on Thursday, with cooler temperatures in the forecast. But with no significant rainfall in sight, state officials warn of continued fire danger.

So far this year, Cal Fire crews have responded to more than 5,300 wildfires. That’s nearly 20% more than average. And state officials say the threat of new fires isn’t over.

“Even though the calendar says ‘October’ fire danger level is high. We want people to be prepared.”

Dry Lightning Sparks Increased Fire Danger

Sep 6, 2012

The weather forecast for Northern and Central California over the next few days has state fire fighters on high alert.   CalFIRE’s Daniel Berlant says thunderstorms and strong winds could lead to dry lightning.   "When we get lightning-sparked fires, there can be dozens – even sometimes hundreds – of fires spread out through a large area.  That always is a challenge for us, because that means additional resources are needed.”    So CalFIRE is placing more fire fighters on duty and staffing its reserve engines in preparation for the increased fire danger.