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Ferguson Fire Now 24,450 Acres, Spotted Across Merced River

MARIPOSA COUNTY – More than 2,700 people are involved in the firefight south of Highway 140 in Mariposa County, battling sweltering heat along with a fire that keeps pushing through incredibly steep and dangerous terrain.

The Ferguson Fire, now in its seventh day, is estimated at 24,450 acres and 7 percent containment. The fire spotted north across the Merced River at about 3 p.m. at the u-bend of the river near Miller Gulch and Ned Gulch, and onto the Stanislaus National Forest.

The first spot fire was estimated at about 1/4 acre, and helicopters were called in from the southern division of the fire. The canyon is too steep for air tankers to operate safely.

By 3:30 p.m., Air Attack reported there were at least two spots, one larger than 10 acres. Air tankers were called out of Columbia and Hollister to try and catch the fire on the ridge above, as helicopters worked closer in.

By 3:50 p.m., one of the fires was reported at 250 – 300 acres. Ground crews and additional air support was immediately called out, and engine strike teams were dispatched to respond for an “immediate need” to Division A.

Just after 4 p.m., one VLAT (Very Large Air Tanker) and four LATs were requested, along with available dozers. Permission was also requested to open the gate to the road across the river.

About 5 p.m., fire officials notified Caltrans to respond to the area because rocks were coming down into the roadway and would soon cut off their access.

At 5:08 p.m., officials advised the evacuation of El Portal, and requested that PG&E deenergize the power lines along the north side of the river.

Just after 6 p.m., the order came from the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office that Old El Portal, Rancheria Flat- Government Housing, Foresta and Yosemite View Lodge were under a mandatory evacuation order. Evacuees would have to exit through Yosemite. A second Red Cross evacuation center was established at Yosemite Valley Elementary School, 9009 Lost Arrow in Yosemite Valley.

By 6 p.m., the new section of fire across the river was estimated at 600 acres. Resources continue to arrive as firefighters look for places on the north side of the river to launch an effective attack. Division chiefs are working together to see what resources they might make available to fight this new part of the fire.

On other sections of line, activity was fairly moderate along the eastern perimeter, with not a lot of movement, say officials. Crews worked to improve the handline southeast from the Merced River toward Pinoche Ridge.

There was very active fire behavior in the area of Granite Ridge about halfway between Jerseydale and Yosemite West, as the fire pushed over to Chowchilla Mountain. It continues to be quite active in the southeastern portion of the fire.

South and east of Jerseydale, scouting continues to find the best places to build contingency line.

Firefighters at Mariposa Pines – photo Gina Clugston

Everything remained inside its current containment lines around the communities of Jerseydale and Mariposa Pines. Firefighters are still working in the area and protecting structures.

On the western flank along Sweetwater, crews continue to strengthen and clean up the firelines, and everything held within the containment lines throughout the day, say fire officials.

Air Attack was up over the fire early this morning hoping for some clean air so tankers and helicopters could get some work done, but no luck.

Smoke from Ferguson Fire at William Sell Bridge 2 p.m. Thursday – photo Gina Clugston

By about 11:30 a.m., smoke was still too dense to allow fixed-wing tankers to fly, but there were some clearer spots where helicopters were able to operate.

At about 1 p.m., firefighters were warned of thunderstorms developing about 15 miles from the fire, and to be prepared for outflow winds and downdrafts, with gusts up to 30 mph coming in from the east.

By about 2 p.m. the smoke had begin to clear a bit, allowing more support from the air.

There are currently 2,711 personnel assigned to the incident including 203 engines, 58 crews, 41 dozers, 39 water tenders, 16 helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft as conditions allow.

There are 216 structures threatened by the Ferguson Fire, but none have been damaged or destroyed.

There have been two firefighter injuries reported. There has been one fatality on the fire.

The Incident Command Post for the Ferguson Fire is now at the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park. Please be aware of heavy fire equipment moving through the area.

The fire is under Unified Command with Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, Yosemite National Park and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office. Management of the fire transitioned to a Type 1 Management Team – California Team 4 on Thursday.

The Glacier Point Road inside Yosemite National Park has been closed to accommodate firefighting resources and activities at a small base camp located at the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area (formerly Badger Pass) and Bridalveil Creek Campground (which is also closed).

Though the west entrance (El Portal) to Yosemite National Park on Highway 140 is closed, the park remains open. For information on Yosemite National Park, go to nps.gov/yose or call 209-372-0200.

The Ferguson Fire started on Friday, July 13, at 8:30 p.m. The cause remains under investigation.

Smoke from the Ferguson Fire is impacting the Mariposa County Air Pollution Control District and across the region. For information 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.

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.

Evacuations

Mandatory evacuations are in place for:

  • Savage Trading Post
  • Redbud Lodge
  • Cedar Lodge
  • Indian Flat Campground
  • Mariposa Pines
  • Sweetwater Ridge
  • Ferguson Ridge
  • Jerseydale including all residences on Jerseydale Road, Hites Cove Road and all side roads from Triangle Road to the end of Hites Cove Road
  • Incline Road from Clearing House to the Foresta Bridge in El Portal
  • The BLM campgrounds in Briceburg are closed until further notice
  • El Portal Trailer Park
  • Old El Portal
  • Rancheria Flat- Government Housing
  • Foresta
  • Yosemite View Lodge

Advisories have been issued 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 Cutoff Road – This includes Boyer Road, Woodland Area, Wass Road and Tip Top Road
  • Yosemite West

These areas are NOT under a mandatory evacuation order. This is an advisement only of a potential evacuation order should conditions change.

Should these areas 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.

The following Red Cross locations are open to assist anyone affected by wildfires:

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 evacuated due to 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.

A second Evacuation Center has been opened to further accommodate those affected by the Ferguson Fire, located at Yosemite Valley Elementary School, 9009 Lost Arrow, in Yosemite Valley.

If you are in a Mandatory Evacuation or Advisory Area and may require assistance with evacuation transportation due to special needs or medical issues, please contact Human Services toll free at 1-833-423-0816 as soon as possible.

Planning ahead will help with a safe and timely evacuation.

Animal Evacuation Centers

Small Animal Shelter is at SPCA of Mariposa County, 5599 Highway 49 in Mariposa.

Large Animal Shelter is at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, 5007 Fairgrounds Road in Mariposa.

Road Closures

Highway 140 is closed from the El Portal entrance gate to 14 miles north of Mariposa.

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.

Please note: Since the map below was created, the areas in blue along the northeast part of Highway 140 have been evacuated.

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