The Rim Fire
SFPUC’s Coordinated Response
to California’s Historic Wildfire
14 SOURCE winter 2014
On August 17, 2013, a hunter’s
illegal campfire near the dry,
steep canyons of California’s
Tuolumne River quickly exploded into the
third largest wildfire in California history.
Named for its proximity to the scenic ‘Rim
of the World’ vista point, the “Rim Fire”
burned into the Hetch Hetchy Regional
Water System’s watersheds, threatened its
hydroelectric power generation and the
primary water supply for 2.6 million people
in the San Francisco Bay. The Hetch Hetchy
Regional Water System is operated by the
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
(SFPUC), a department of the City and
County of San Francisco. Eighty-five percent
of the regional system’s water comes from
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
August 17th began as a clear, sunny day
one hundred miles away in San Francisco.
Mary Ellen Carroll, SFPUC’s Emergency
Planning Director, was made aware of a
small fire burning in the mountains about
thirty miles from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
through the SFPUC’s Roam Secure
Alert Network emergency alert system.
Fueled by hot weather and extremely dry
conditions, the Rim Fire grew and spread
exponentially from forty acres when it
was discovered to over 10,000 acres within
By Amy Sinclair
Left: Michael Carlin, SFPUC’s
Deputy General Manager, and
other officials at the Department
Operations Center at SFPUC’s
headquarters in San Francisco.
Right: Crews clearing the
roads after the fire.