The California Rim Fire, now 11 days old, has become the seventh largest fire in state history after growing by nearly 20,000 acres Tuesday. The size of the fire is now nearly 180,000 acres (280 square miles) -- bigger than the city of Chicago.
The wildfire continues to burn in and around parts of Yosemite National Park. The part of the blaze inside the park doubled to about 40,960 acres, or 64 square miles. Despite that, most tourist sites at the park, which spans about 1,200 square miles, are still open ahead of the upcoming Labor Day weekend because the fire is burning in the park's backcountry areas.
On Wednesday, smoke is expected to settle low to the ground, which could hamper visibility for fire crews.
There is also continuing concern about the flames at the edge of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which supplies most of San Francisco's water. Even though ash has fallen into the resevoir, crews said they are confident the water supply is safe.
As of Tuesday, the Rim Fire remains 20 percent contained and California officials said they continue to make inroads as they battle the blaze.
"We are making progress," Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Tuesday, adding that fire managers were looking forward to a cooling trend forecast for the end of the week. "That would bring some much-needed relief," he said.
The blaze is among the fastest-moving of dozens of large wildfires raging across the drought-parched West.
The fires have strained resources and prompted fire managers to open talks with Pentagon commanders and Canadian officials about possible reinforcements, Reuters reported.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service, which is the nation's top wildfire-fighting agency, said it was down to just $50 million after spending $967 million as of Aug. 19.
That forced the Forest Service to divert funds from timber and recreation programs, as well as other areas, to close the gap.
Mike Ferris, a Forest Service spokesperson with the National Interagency Fire Center, told Al Jazeera that the agency has asked various Forest Service programs to identify "unobligated" dollar amounts they have available that hasn't been committed to contacts, salary or facility maintenance through Sept. 30, the end of its fiscal year.
That amount is expected to add up to about $600 million and help fund firefighting operations. Of that amount, the Forest Service said $200 million was made available on Aug. 20. Ferris said that whatever the budget shortfall, it "will not affect our own ongoing commitment" to fight the country's ongoing wildfires, with a last resort being an emergency request for funding from Congress, which has not occurred.
Speaking at a news conference after the Silver Fire, which burned over 20,000 acres in California's Riverside County, in early August, Sen. Barbara Boxer blamed the sequester for hampering efforts to fight wildfires.
Boxer said funding cuts to the Forest Service and to the the Department of Interior restrained the ability of those agencies to respond to such large-scale incidents.
Boxer referred to the sequester as "mindless cuts that are hurting so many things, including our ability to prevent and fight wildfires."
There are currently 30 active large fires burning across the country in states such as California, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.
So far this year, 33,766 fires have burned through over 3.5 million acres. In 2012, 67,774 fires burned over 9.3 million acres.The Forest Service spent about $1.43 billion fighting wildfires last year.
Philip J. Victor contributed to this report. With Al Jazeera and wire services