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Last day on Ferguson Fire for crew from Sequoia National Forest - photo USFS

Ferguson Fire 82 Percent Contained, Date Set To Reopen Yosemite Valley

YOSEMITE – It has been 16 days since the Yosemite Valley was closed to the public, residents and most employees, so the news that the Valley and the Mariposa Grove would be reopening next week was a very bright spot in the month-long battle to contain the Ferguson Fire.

The Mariposa Grove is scheduled to reopen to visitors on Monday, Aug. 13, at 9 a.m. Highway 41 north of Wawona to the Valley will remain closed to the public for at least another week, say officials. Yosemite Valley, Big Oak Flat Road and Highway 140 (El Portal Road) will reopen on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m. (see details below).

The fire is still estimated at 95,554 acres and is now 82 percent contained.

Ferguson Fire from Big Oak Flat Road Aug. 9, Highway 41 running through the fire – photo Donn Harter

Both day and night resources have been focused on the final piece that must be secured between El Portal Road and Wawona Road. To secure this line, crews are conducting tactical firing operations along Wawona Road (Highway 41) north toward Turtleback Dome. The operation is expected to take two or three days to complete.

Planners say this will be a slow, deliberate process due to the extremely dry vegetation, steep terrain, and potential for spotting into the Grouse Creek Drainage. Bucket drops from helicopters are assisting firefighters on the ground by cooling the fire and reducing the risk of spot fires.

There is hand line in place from Elephant Rock down into the Merced River Canyon, and crews have installed a sprinkler system down that line to keep it wet and prevent the fire’s spread farther to the north and into Yosemite Valley. Hot Shot crews will be burning to bring the fire down to the river tonight if conditions remain favorable.

As of 6 p.m. today, crews had completed firing north along Highway 41 to within about one-half mile of the line at Elephant Rock. From there, it is about a mile down to the river.

In the Glacier Point Road area and up toward Badger Pass, crews were kept busy as temperatures rose this afternoon. Fire activity increased along the service road near Chinquapin, but with the help of air support, firefighters were able to hold multiple small spot fires and contained an area where fire went beyond the planned fire line. Firefighters remain vigilant patrolling for spot fires across the containment lines and are readily assisted by air support as needed.

As firefighting activity on most parts of the fire moves into mop-up and restoration, the massive job of backhauling the trash and equipment used during suppression efforts begins. One of those backhauls is hose. Miles and miles of hose.

Some 1,376,400 feet of hose have been used on the many miles of fireline across the Ferguson Fire.

All of that hose is backhauled and returned to fire camp to be straightened, wound into 50 or 100 ft rolls, transported to a central regional warehouse known as a cache where it will be unrolled, washed and re-rolled to be ready for transport to the next fire.

The hose is cleaned to prolong its life and ensure its proper performance. Without proper cleaning it can pick up harmful chemicals and can grow mold and mildew.

Cleaning can also prevent the spread of noxious weeds from one location to another.

The young adults of the California Conservation Corp have a big job ahead of them as the mounds of used hose grow.

A winding machine operator presses a piece of wooden plank against the hose roll as it winds to keep it flat.

Finished rolls are secured with red rubber bands. The red bands mark the rolls as used and headed for the cache for any needed repairs and washing.

The rolls of hose are then packaged onto pallets for the trip. Each pallet of recycled hose contains 10,000 feet or nearly two miles of hose.

The most common hose sizes are one inch, one-and-a-half inch and garden-size hose which is used primarily for mopping up during the final stages of the fire. Hose is just one tool in a firefighter’s toolkit, but an important one. (Photo credit USFS)

Suppression repair efforts are ongoing on most sections of the fire. This includes using heavy equipment to build water bars and berms, and bringing in vegetation to repair any damage done during suppression activity.

The southern and western perimeters of the fire are in mop-up and patrol status, and suppression repair work is underway.

The number of personnel assigned to the incident has dropped to 1,408. Some firefighters are being demobilized from the Ferguson Fire but will be sent to other fires across the region. Others have “timed out” and are being released for some mandatory and well-deserved R&R after a tough assignment.

The Ferguson Fire started on Friday, July 13, at 8:30 p.m., near Savage Trading Post on the south side of the Merced River canyon along Highway 140. The cause remains under investigation.

The Ferguson Fire is now the largest fire in the history of the Sierra National Forest.

The estimated date for full containment is Wednesday, Aug. 15.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley will reopen to visitors on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m. after being closed since July 25. Visitors can access Yosemite Valley from the El Portal Road (Highway 140), the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120), or the Tioga Road (Highway 120).

The Wawona Road (Highway 41) will remain closed from Wawona to Yosemite Valley for at least another week due to ongoing fire activity and firefighter operations. Park visitors should be aware that there is still active fire and smoke on the roads and people should drive with extreme caution.

Delays on the roads are possible due to fire activity and ongoing firefighter operations. There will be limited hours and limited visitor services at park facilities as the park returns to normal operations.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias will reopen to the public on Monday, Aug. 13, at 9 a.m. Visitors can access the Mariposa Grove via the South Entrance (Highway 41) and park in the newly-constructed parking area.

The free shuttle buses to the Mariposa Grove will begin at 9 a.m. and take visitors to the newly-restored Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The Mariposa Grove reopened to visitors on June 14, after a 3-year restoration project conducted in partnership with Yosemite Conservancy.

Visitors will be able to travel to the Wawona area via the South Entrance (Highway 41). However, there is no access to Yosemite Valley via Highway 41.

The Glacier Point Road remains closed and is expected to open when the Wawona Road (Highway 41) reopens. The Hetch Hetchy Area remains closed due to smoke impacts but is expected to reopen soon.

For updated 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, please call 209-372-0200, press 1 and press 1 again. Updated information is also available on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/yose and on the Yosemite National Park Facebook page.

Structures and injuries

Ten structures have been destroyed by the Ferguson Fire. Amazingly, no inhabited homes have been lost. Damage assessment teams have been able to get into some of the burn areas of the fire, and report that most of the 10 structures reported lost were in the Ned Gulch area on the north end of the fire. According to locals, these were historic mining operation structures that were being restored and used weekly for various types of outings and expeditions.

There have been 14 firefighter injuries reported, and numerous instances of heat exhaustion-type symptoms. There have been two fatalities on the fire; HFEO Braden Varney was killed in a dozer rollover accident on July 14, and Brian Hughes, Arrowhead Hotshot Captain, lost his life on July 29 when he was struck by a tree during a firing operation.

Air quality issues

For information on air quality specific to Mariposa County visit http://www.mariposacounty.org/index.aspx?NID=1434. For additional information on air quality you can visit the AirNow website or the air fire smoke page.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has also warned that a health caution is in place and smoke impacts will continue until the fire is extinguished.

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine, microscopic particles that can cause health problems including triggering asthma attacks, aggravating chronic heart and lung diseases, and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to the health effects from these pollutants. Anyone being exposed to poor air quality or wildfire smoke should move inside to an air-conditioned environment.

Residents can check the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s wildfire page at www.valleyair.org/wildfires for information about any current wildfires and whether they are impacting the Valley. The District’s Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) provides localized air quality data from an extensive air-monitoring network which allows Valley residents to track PM at any Valley address by visiting myraan.com.

General Information

If community members see new fire activity, they are asked to call 911, not the fire information line.

As of July 21, there are fire restrictions in place on the Sierra National Forest. Please read and be informed before you use any type of fire in the forest.

The Incident Command Post for the Ferguson Fire is located at the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park. Please be aware of heavy fire equipment moving through the area. There is also a base camp set up on the Stanislaus National Forest. Personnel at the fire camp at Badger Pass have been relocated to the ICP in Ahwahnee due to active fire in the area.

Cal Fire exited Unified Command as of 6 a.m., Thursday, July 26, because of reduced threats to state and private lands. Cal Fire remains committed to the Ferguson Incident as an assisting agency. California Interagency Incident Management Team 3, led by Incident Commander Mark von Tillow, assumed management of the Ferguson Fire as of 6 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, transitioning in for California Team 4, which had be managing the fire since July 19.

For information about the fire please call 530-377-6221.

Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor Jason Kuiken has signed a forest order closing several Groveland Ranger District roads and trails impacted by the Ferguson Fire. This closure is based on the current and expected fire behavior and will be in effect until Sept. 30, or until replaced or rescinded. Click here for details and a map of the closure.

Be sure you are signed up to receive alerts when wildfire or other emergencies threaten.

Evacuations

  • Yosemite Valley – residents only. The valley will reopen to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 14 at 9 a.m.

The Red Cross Evacuation Center at New Life Christian Fellowship in Bootjack was closed at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Road Closures

  • Highway 140 is closed from the park gate east. It is scheduled to reopen to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m.
  • Highway 41 is closed at the south gate except to residents of Wawona and Yosemite West.

General information on returning to previously evacuated areas:

Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office will have a heavy presence in the area to ensure the security and safety of residents and businesses.

There will still be smoke in the respective areas as firefighters continue firefighting operations. If at any time you feel unsafe, please call 911.

For questions or concerns regarding power, please contact PG&E at 800-743-5000 or visit their website at www.pge.com.

The Mariposa County Health Department has health and safety information for residents returning to their homes on their website at http://www.mariposacounty.org/health or call 209-966-3689.

Mariposa County Health and Human Services will be available to assist residents with gaining additional services. Additional information regarding these and other services is available at www.mariposacountyrecovers.org.

SAFETY MESSAGE – The public is reminded to stay vigilant on current fire conditions. Please continue to adhere to road closures and any evacuation warnings. If you see electrical wires on the ground, stay clear and contact PG&E immediately. Trees and poles with deep charring, particularly if still smoking, should be considered hazardous. Please drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel in the area. As you re-enter your property and evaluate damage, be aware that hazardous conditions may exist, particularly if a residence or out-building has burned. Hazards may include asbestos, heavy metals, by-products of plastic combustion and various other chemicals. We encourage the public to remain prepared year-round for wildfires by visiting the www.readyforwildfire.org website. The best show of support is having your home and property “fire-ready.”

Cooperating Agencies on the Ferguson Fire include:

There are no new maps available to show today’s changes to the fire’s perimeter. We will update here if they become available before the morning update.

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