Awe-inspiring story from Diana Marcum at the Los Angeles Times. Here's a part of it:
Two days later, on Aug. 17, flames exploded over a ridge above the Tuolumne River. Whitewater rafters navigating the canyon of buckeyes and bald eagles said it sounded like bombs.
It was about 20 miles in the distance, but Yosemite Fire Chief Kelly Martin, a specialist in predicting fire behavior, knew it was headed their way.
"This is it," she said. "This is the Big One."
Now, it had pushed 30 miles inside the park, moving south toward California 120 — the main east-west route through Yosemite. In one day it had burned 50,000 acres inside the park. The biggest fire since the park began keeping records in 1930 had burned 46,000.
The sequoias evolved to face wildfire. But officials feared that this fire could kill even trees that had been shrugging off flames since before Rome burned.
A lot could go wrong. If the backfires were too hot, they could cook the groves. If they did not burn enough ground in time, the Rim fire would roar through unblocked. Those two groves and the Merced Grove to the south would burn, the lookout tower and helicopter base would burn, and the firefighters would have to run.
"We knew it was a longshot," [Taro] Pusina, [deputy fire chief] said. "But no amount of bulldozers or planes or crews had stopped this fire. We were out of options."
Firefighting has come so far since the total fire suppression days -- great to see the firefighters who took these chances honored for their success.