YOSEMITE – The El Portal fire continued to gain ground throughout the day, reaching 3,545 acres in size. However, crews made good progress on the lines.
Firefighters have achieved 34% containment as the fire continues to char the forest on the west side of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. There are currently 864 personnel assigned to the incident.
Today’s efforts resulted in an improved percentage of containment on the southern portion of the fire as well as some steady improvement on the lower western and eastern flanks. Fire officials do remain concerned over the fire’s growth on the north and northeast sections of the perimeter as efforts continue to address problem spots along these areas.
Steep, rugged terrain continues to challenge the efforts of firefighters but progress is being made. The weather forecast calls for continued high temperatures reaching as high as 100 degrees near El Portal. These patterns will continue as a high pressure over the region remains stationary.
Thunderstorm activity, if any, is predicted to stay to the east. Fire activity is expected to continue through evening particularly in the north and northeast sections as a result of poor overnight relative humidity recovery.
Today’s areas of concern for fire management officials have been concentrated on the northern portion of the fire, as the fireline bumps into the burn perimeter of the 2009 Big Meadow Fire. The plan of action included continued structure defense, holding and improving completed containment lines, and constructing hand and dozer lines. Crews are also preparing existing roads for future firing operations.
Vegetation in this area and throughout the state remains in critical, historic drought conditions. Extremely steep and remote terrain requires heavy dependence on Type 1 Hand Crews and aviation assets. The fire is burning in chaparral, brush, grass, oak and woodlands at lower elevations, and in pine and cedar at elevations above 4,500 feet.
A community meeting was held in Old El Portal last evening with 95 people in attendance, according to the US Forest Service. The mandatory evacuation was lifted for Old El Portal, however the mandatory evacuation remains in effect for the communities of Foresta and El Portal.
The Dark Hole fire, also being managed by California Interagency Incident Management Team 5, remains at just over 500 acres as a smoldering, creeping fire in the understory. As threats from this fire are minimal, fire resources have been largely concentrated on the El Portal incident.
Still under threat from the fire are the communities of Old El Portal and Foresta, and the high voltage transmission lines serving El Portal, Foresta and the Merced Sequoia Grove.
Of concern to everyone is that the Big Oak Flat Road between State Highway 120 and the Yosemite Valley is closed during peak visitor season, creating a major impact to the local economy of the Gateway communities of Yosemite National Park, and limiting visitor access to the Park itself.