MARIPOSA COUNTY – The Ferguson fire, burning in the Merced River Canyon west of Yosemite National Park, is now estimated at about 1,000 acres. Smoky conditions have not allowed for exact mapping at this time. The fire is 5 percent contained.
Fire activity picked up this afternoon about 3 p.m. as temperatures rose to near the 100 degree mark and winds picked up.
Air operations were limited in the morning by low visibility due to smoke. The narrow canyons and power lines in the area also made the mission even more dangerous for aircraft.
The fire is burning in extremely steep and inaccessible terrain, in brush and timber. Triple-digit heat will be challenging firefighters for the foreseeable future.
There are currently 200 personnel assigned to the incident including six Type 1 crews, four air tankers, four helicopters, and four water tenders. There are two more Type 1 strike teams on order. The number of engines assigned is not available at this time.
Just after 3 p.m., it was reported that the fire had jumped the South Fork of the Merced River and was burning on the west side.
Just before 4 p.m., the Highway 140 closure was moved to the Bug Hostel on the west (click here for location of the Bus Hostel) and 1.4 miles west of Incline/ Cedar Lodge. The exact wording from Caltrans is 1.9 miles east of Midpines at the climbing lane, to 1.4 miles west of Incline at the climbing lane (see map below).
At 4 p.m., Air Attack reported the fire was making a good run toward Clark Valley and the Jerseydale area, and advised that firefighters in the vicinity get out of the area. Structure protection resources would be needed farther south.
Cedar Lodge, Indian Flat Campground and Ferguson Ridge are under a mandatory evacuation, along with Sweetwater. Savage Trading Post and Redbud Lodge were evacuated last night.
Also last night, PG&E deenergized the power lines running through the fire area, affecting Yosemite, El Portal and Foresta.
At 4:20 p.m., air tankers were overhead and began painting retardant lines across Ferguson Ridge to slow the spread south and west toward the populated areas. Previous fuel treatment projects across the top of the ridge assisted in suppression efforts, along with a shift in the wind direction.
Late this afternoon, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office sent out warnings to residents about the smoke being created by the fire, and urged everyone to remain aware and alert as conditions can change quickly.
“We are working in partnership with our fire suppression partners and we will be communicating with the Mariposa Pines/ Jerseydale area residents if fire activity requires further action.”
At 5:25 p.m., a Fire Advisement was issued for the Jerseydale area. At 10:45 p.m., a mandatory evacuation order was issued for Jerseydale.
The Sheriff also asks that if you live in the El Portal, Yosemite West or Midpines area, you remain alert and aware of the Ferguson Fire.
“Should any of those areas become under a Fire Advisement or Mandatory Evacuation 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.”
The S.O. also announced that all BLM campgrounds in the Briceburg area would be closed until further notice.
If you have not registered with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office to receive Nixel alerts, do so here or text your zip code to 888777. For Madera County visit MCAlert.org or text your zip code to 888777.
Just before 5 p.m., the fire came over the ridge and was headed toward Cedar Lodge. Firefighters had done prep work around the structures and were getting all the hose lines plumbed. More resources were sent to help defend.
At 5:25 p.m., Sweetwater Christian Camp was evacuated.
At about 6:20 p.m., four dozers and two strike teams of engines (10 engines) were requested to stage in the Jerseydale area.
At 6:45 p.m., firefighters at Cedar Lodge reported the fire was within 1/4 mile of the lodge. Two more engines and a Hot Shot crew were requested, but the additional resources were not immediately available. Crews already in place will work late into the night.
The fire is currently under the command of the U.S. Forest Service Type 3 Team with Brian Vasquez as the Incident Commander. At 6 a.m. tomorrow, the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team will take over.
There are no perimeter maps of the fire available this evening, but those resources should be ready in the morning and we will share them as soon as they are available.
Tragically, an MMU dozer operator was killed on the firelines this morning. Braden Varney, just 36 years old, died in a dozer rollover accident.
The cause of this fire remains under investigation.
Interactive map below shows where the fire started, to the southeast of Savage Trading Post, on the east side of the South Fork of the Merced River.
The map farther down shows the GPS coordinates that mark the spot of the ignition point, and third map is of the road closure on Highway 140.