Breaking: Wildfires put Tuolumne Family Camp on alert


The Berkeley-run Tuolumne Family Camp is on evacuation alert. Photo: Sonny Abesamis/Creative Commons.

Update, 6:50pm STAFF LEAVE CAMP: Tuolumne Camp staff have now left the camp, according to unconfirmed reports. A staff member spoke to a parent of a camper who had already left and said staffers were making their way through Yosemite. They described the sky as being red. It is unclear whether there is anyone left at the camp. Meanwhile, 110 students from Berkeley’s Maybeck High School have evacuated voluntarily from the San Jose Family Camp which is along the Tuolumne River, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Update, 5:18 pm CITs LEAVE CAMP, HEAD TO BERKELEY: Tuolumne Camp has arranged for the CITS (counselors-in-training) at the camp to return to Berkeley tonight. In a message emailed to the camp families, Scott Ferris, Director of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront for the city of Berkeley, said the decision was taken because there are only a small number of campers left at the site, and also in response to parents’ concerns. “Although camp remains open,  many participants have chosen to leave camp,” he wrote. “Because of the lack of participants, parent concern and the potential closure of camp due to the fire, we are taking the precaution of bringing the CITs home tonight.” The CITS are expected to be transported by bus to downtown Berkeley where they will arrive after 11:00pm.

Original story: The Rim Fire that is currently burning across more than 10,000 acres in the Yosemite area and has shut down a major gateway to the national park, has put the Berkeley-run Tuolumne Family Camp on evacuation alert. “As of this point, we understand that no evacuation order has been issued,” Pamela Embry, a spokesperson for the city of Berkeley, said.

The camp is ready to evacuate if it needs to, but campers are not in any imminent danger, according to sources close to the camp. Campers have been instructed to pack a bag of essential items in case of evacuation, and transport plans are in place.

The air quality at the camp is fine, according to a source who is speaking to officials at the city, and food provisions are high. Estimates put the number of campers at 80 with 40 staff. 

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The area of the wildfire. Map: CA-STF

Families with children at the camp report that the campers can see and smell smoke. The camp is currently running on a generator and, reportedly, the phone service is down. Neither the city nor the camp has released information to the community as of this writing.

The fire has thus far closed a section of Highway 120, and the town of Buck Meadows — which is southwest of the Berkeley Family Camp — has been evacuated. The west entrance to Yosemite is closed, according to media reports.

The fire is 0% contained and is proving difficult to fight due to inaccessible, steep terrain, according to incident information provided by authorities

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jerry Snyder told the LA. Times that about 2,500 homes west of the Rim Fire — along Ferretti Road and north of California 120 — are threatened. “Two homes have already been lost as 455 firefighters struggled to contain the out-of-control blaze, which had burned through about 10,170 acres of rugged, hilly terrain in the Stanislaus National Forest,” the paper reported.

Track the fire at the government’s Incident website.
Follow the fire on Twitter using #RimFire
Watch a video of the fire on Aug. 18 shot from an airplane.

This story is being updated as Berkeleyside gets new information.

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  • suckatash

    That’s crazy. If HWY 120 is closed, I’d get the heck out of there. It’s 0% contained, meaning that the fire will go anywhere it wants to.

  • htw

    We arrived yesterday morning and left by the evening. The air quality was terrible and it was raining ash on camp. If the air is better today, the wind must have shifted (and it could always shift again). If only 80 campers are left, lots of folks self-evacuated like we did.

  • LKA

    We self-evacuated yesterday afternoon too. I would really like to hear that they shut the camp down and let the staff go home to their families. At best it’s unpleasant in camp right now… At worst, things could change quickly and lives could be threatened.

  • smokey

    We left around 7pm on Monday. Smoke and ash in the air, no power, phone and told not to flush the toilets. 100 people from San Jose Family Camp were evacuated here too.

  • Heather

    We drove down last night; the air quality was terrible there all of Monday – enough to make my throat and eyes burn, turned the sun bright red. I can still feel my lungs. Wood smoke is very toxic and even brief exposures can have long lasting effects. (

  • Guest

    Camp Tawonga on Mather Rd cancelled planned family camp this weekend, citing road access, air quality.

  • htw

    Confirmation that camp is now officially evacuated: People are posting on the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Facebook page that all staff have left and are safe.

  • mlerager

    We stayed at btc until Tuesday.the air had cleared by Monday evening and sky blue Tuesday. Staff reassurred us despite limited generator provided electricity camp would continue per usual and no reimbursement unless forced evacuation. Sherrif deputies also told us to relax and enjoys as fires are normal in mountains. However at 4pm a staff meeting revealed cti staff wasleaving ooSuddenly at dinner the usual cheery announcement was to now voluntarily leave as staff leaving. The staff was very careful to not say evacuate. I feel we were fasely reassured considering how large and out of control tbe fire had become.

  • suckatash

    Sadly, the sherrifs are covering financial asses. There should be refunds. Worst fire since 1999 in that area.