Rim fire

Science and Policy Analyst William Sears, with the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, looks down on the Tuolumne River while standing among trees that were charred by the Rim fire in the Stanislaus National Forest. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / December 13, 2013)

President Obama signed a disaster declaration Friday for the state of California, making federal funds available for recovery efforts related to  the massive Rim fire near Yosemite National Park.

The money is available to state and local governments and eligible private nonprofits for emergency work and to repair or replace facilities damaged by the blaze, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

The 410-square-mile fire — the state's third largest on record — sparked Aug. 17 by a hunter's illegal campfire in the Stanislaus National Forest. It scorched swaths of forest, burning into the northwest part of Yosemite before it was fully contained in late October.

Experts said the ecological effects of the blaze would probably last for decades, as massive trees were wiped out and habitats of rare species severely altered. Officials have since debated the best way to handle the largest recovery effort the Sierra Nevada has seen.

FEMA said other designations could be made in the future if requested by the state and deemed appropriate based on additional damage assessments.

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kate.mather@latimes.com