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Ferguson Fire from El Portal - photo Blake Scott

Dense Smoke Continues To Hamper Air Attack Of Ferguson Fire

Ferguson Fire from El Portal – photo Blake Scott

MARIPOSA COUNTY – On the anniversary of the devastating Detwiler Fire of 2017 that burned nearly 82,000 acres, forced the evacuation of hundreds of people, and destroyed 130 structures, residents of Mariposa County are once again on edge waiting to see what the Ferguson Fire is going to do next.

Unfortunately, no update on acreage is available as of this posting, but we will update that information as soon as it becomes available. The last estimate was 9,266 acres with 2 percent containment.

There are currently 1,486 personnel assigned to the incident including 118 engines, 39 crews, 16 dozers, 4 helicopters, 5 water tenders, and fixed-wing aircraft as conditions allow.

Because the fire has now moved into Cal Fire’s areas of protection (State Responsibility Area), it is now under Unified Command with Cal Fire, US Forest Service and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office.

There are currently 108 structures threatened, including 70 homes, 3 commercial buildings, and 35 outbuildings.

Once again air operations were hampered by an inversion layer holding the smoke down across the area. The smoke would clear briefly, and they lay back down over the fire. Neither fixed-wing nor helicopters could provide any meaningful support until mid-afternoon.

There was a lot of fire activity on the western edge as the fire continues to back off of Ferguson Ridge. Once helicopters could safely operate, they focused a lot on this area.

On the northwest corner near where the fire started, it burned down off the hill and is now touching the highway in some spots. Fire activity is expected to increase in that section due to “squirrely winds” this evening.

Out toward Yosemite West, crews continue prep work for structure defense. Dozers are cutting lines over from Pinoch Ridge and down to the river.

Helicopters were finally able to get up over the fire just after 2:30 p.m., and late in the afternoon the air was clear enough for fixed-wing aircraft.

At about 5 p.m., six air tankers were requested, preferably VLATS, but any available would be put to work. By 5:30 that request was filled.

On the southern edge of the fire nearest Jerseydale, crews conducted burning operations on Snyder Ridge. The fire has touched the dozer line in that area. Officials expect a lot of fire activity in the area of Snyder’s Gulch and Devils Gulch overnight.

The big focus for the night crews will be the Mariposa Pines and Jerseydale area, protecting structures and building line. When tankers finally got into the game around 5 p.m., they began working that area and as of 6 p.m, there were 8 tankers painting with retardant to set the night shift up for success.

Another priority tonight is the fire backing down onto the Highway 140 corridor. Crews will be working on structure protection in the Cedar Lodge area and infrastructure protection along the highway.

High tree mortality continues to be a danger to everyone working this fire. Trees that have been dead for several years are just waiting for some disturbance to bring them down.

At least one person working the fire had to be treated for heat-related issues today, as temperatures pushed toward the century mark.

Firefighters will continue to deal with high temperatures, with gusting winds in the late afternoon and evening, especially in the river canyons.

Midday today, the closure of Highway 140 was extended east to a location just west of El Portal.

There will be a community meeting tomorrow night, July 17, at 6 p.m. at the Wasuma School in Ahwahnee.

The Incident Command Post for the Ferguson Fire is in the process of moving to the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park, and will be fully operational there tomorrow morning.

So far no structures have been lost and no injuries reported. There has been one fatality on the fire.

Cal Fire Mariposa-Madera-Merced (MMU), with the assistance of California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 5, were able to recover the body of Cal Fire Heavy Fire Equipment Operator (HFEO) Braden Varney, from the accident site within the Ferguson Fire today. A procession in his honor was held along the route from the fire zone to the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office in Modesto. Braden died on July 14 in a rollover dozer accident while working the fire.

Evacuations

Mandatory evacuations are in place for Savage Trading Post, Redbud Lodge, Cedar Lodge, Indian Flat Campground, Mariposa Pines, Jerseydale, Sweetwater Ridge and Ferguson Ridge. The BLM campgrounds in Briceburg are closed until further notice.

Jerseydale’s order includes all residences on Jerseydale Road, Hites Cove Road and all side roads from Triangle Road to the end of Hites Cove Road.

At 8:45 p.m today a mandatory evacuation was issued for Incline Road from Clearing House to the Foresta Bridge in El Portal.

At 8:50 p.m an advisory was issued for:

  • National Park Service El Portal Complex
  • Rancheria Flat – Government Housing
  • El Portal Trailer Court
  • Old El Portal
This is NOT an Evacuation Order. This is an advisement only of a potential Evacuation Order should conditions change

At 10:45 a.m. today, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office issued a fire advisory for the following locations:

  • Lushmeadows Community
  • Ponderosa Basin Community
  • Triangle Road from Jerseydale Road to Highway 49 South including all side roads
  • Darrah Road from Triangle to Sherrod Road
  • East side of Highway 49S from Darrah Road to Harris Cuttoff Road – This includes Boyer Road, Woodland Area, Wass Road and Tip Top Road

This is NOT an Evacuation Order. This is an advisement only of a potential Evacuation Order should conditions change.

Should this area come under a Mandatory Evacuation Order you will be notified via the Sheriff’s Office Emergency Alert System by text, email and a voice call, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, and door-to-door communication by Sheriff’s Office staff. At that time you will be notified of the best routes of travel to safely evacuate your residence.

A fire advisory has also been issued for the Yosemite West area of Mariposa County.

A Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at the New Life Christian Church located at 5089 Cole Road in Mariposa. If you have been affected by the Ferguson Fire, the Sheriff’s Office asks that you please check in with the Red Cross Shelter even if you do not plan to stay there.

The Central California Animal Disaster Team is working in coordination with Mariposa Animal Control in dealing with small animals. Right now, they are referring pet owners with small animals to the Mariposa SPCA. If you need assistance with large animal evacuation please call the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office at 209-966-3615.

Road Closures

Highway 140 remains closed from 1.9 miles east of Midpines at the climbing lane to just west of El Portal.

Also closed are Jerseydale Road, Hites Cove Road and all side roads from Triangle Road to the end of Hites Cove Road; River Road from Briceburg to the gate at Railroad Flat and all campground areas are closed; Hites Cove Road from Bear Clover Road to the Merced River.

Cooperating Agencies include the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, CAL OES, California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, American Red Cross, National Weather Service, California Conservation Corps, BLM and additional agencies throughout the state.

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