The Rim Fire passed the 1977 Marble Cone (Ventana Wilderness) incident to claim the spot as seventh largest wildfire in California history. The ongoing fire measures at 179,000 acres according to Inciweb. The 1977 Marble Cone fire topped out at 177,000 acres. Next in line is the 2007 ‘Witch Fire’ that scorched 197,000 acres in San Diego County.
The 273,000 acre Cedar Fire (2007, San Diego County) is the modern day acreage king of California fires.
What separates the Rim Fire from other historical fire events is rate of growth. The 240,000 acre Zaca Fire (2007, Santa Barbara County) took more than a month to reach 180k acres, the Rim Fire has been burning for 10 days.
The scope of a blaze this size is hard to appreciate. The image below helps (click image to expand). Each square represents a square mile. As a crow flies from west to east over the fire it covers 25 miles. North to south 20 miles.
3,800 firefighting and support personnel are assigned to the Rim Fire, half rest while the others work. At the peak of the Basin Complex Fire (Big Sur, 2008) there were over 7,000 firefighters assigned to the incident spread between two camps. Forest Service personnel are currently spread thin across the west staffing dozens of active wildfires. Cal Fire and the USFS are lead agencies with help from Cal OES and mutual aid from fire departments from around the state.
Lower personnel staffing is really not a problem on the this incident. Firing strategies, dozer work and air operations are key components in this fight. Direct attack on a fire this size is futile.