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Berkeley Officials Tour Devastated Tuolomne Camp Site

By Bay City News
Friday September 06, 2013 - 10:44:00 AM

City officials in Berkeley this week made the trek out to the city's nearly century-old Tuolumne Camp to assess the damage done by the massive Rim Fire.

Law enforcement escorted the staff Monday into the grounds, which remain closed as the fire continues to burn nearby. All the main buildings in the camp have been destroyed including the dining and recreation halls and the amphitheater, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said. 

The two permanent bridges were also damaged to the point they are unusable, Chakko said. 

Roughly 12 to 16 cabins remain in the camp's main area, but each have varying degrees of damage, Chakko said. 

A restroom and two tent cabins in the camp's Sun City area were untouched, but everything else in the area burned, according to officials. 

Prior to the fire, the camp boasted more than 80 buildings. 

"This is a place that meant a lot to generations of families," Chakko said. "The fire came through so fast it took out everything in its way." Chakko said it is still too early to tell what the city's plan for the camp will be. 

"We don't know what's feasible because we don't know enough about the next steps," he said. 

First, the city is hiring contractors to remove debris from the campsite, he said.  

Campers who were forced to evacuate before the end of their reservation dates will be refunded the amounts based on their stay, according to the city. 

Anyone who was unable to attend between the dates of Aug. 19 and Aug. 30 due to road closures will receive full refunds. 

Berkeley's Tuolumne Family Camp, established in 1922, is located off of state Highway 120 west of the entrance to Yosemite National Park. 

The Rim Fire, now the fourth-largest wildfire in California's history, began on Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest near the Jawbone Ridge area and has burned 237,341 acres. As of this morning, it was 80 percent contained. 

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that personnel from its Law Enforcement and Investigations division and the Tuolumne County District Attorney's Office have determined that the blaze started after the hunter "allowed an illegal fire to escape." 

There is no indication that the fire is related to a marijuana-growing operation, as had been rumored, according to the Forest Service.  

The hunter's name has not yet been released.  

As of this morning, 1,900 homes were still threatened and evacuations were in effect, according to Cal Fire.