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Retardant on dozer line above Jerseydale - photo USFS

Ferguson Fire Over 54,000 Acres, Firefighter Killed In The Line Of Duty

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The day started with tragedy on the Ferguson Fire when the Captain of the Arrowhead Hot Shots, Brian Hughes, 33, was struck by a tree and killed while engaged in a tactical firing operation on the east side of the fire.

All resources in Division G, where the incident occurred, were pulled off the line, and that part of the fire is being patrolled by air only at this time.

The danger posed to those working this fire cannot be overstated, as most of the pine trees across the Sierra National Forest and the southern portion of the Stanislaus National Forest are dead and extremely dangerous.

News of Hughes’s death cast a pall over the Incident Command Post this afternoon. Everyone involved in fighting this fire realized, however, that the dangerous mission still lay ahead, and after reflecting on this tragedy, they would have to get their minds back on the job at hand.

Someone stopped at the entrance to the ICP late this afternoon and left a remembrance in honor of the fallen hero.

The Ferguson Fire grew by 835 acres today and is now estimated at 54,481 acres with 30 percent containment.

Tactical firing operations will be the focus over the next several days as crews are prepared and weather conditions are cooperating. An increase in smoke should be expected as fuels inside the perimeter are burned off. During all tactical firing operations, firefighters and law enforcement maintain a presence in evacuated communities to ensure homes and structures remain safe.

On the northwest perimeter of the fire on the Stanislaus National Forest, crews conducted firing operations inside the dozer line from Halls Gulch up Soapstone Ridge overnight. Officials say it cooled down very well and they got some good depth to the fireline on the western edge.

Firing operations among snags on the Ferguson Fire – photo USFS

Crews are doing mop-up and securing the lower half of that line below Pilot Peak. The mission for today was to find some opportunities to fire along the ridge to the north and to get up into Pilot Ridge.

The section of line adjacent to the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias was finished today, and crews plan to fire it tonight.

There is a 35-acre slopover on the Trumbull Ridge containment line, but crews and aircraft are working it and planners are confident they will be successful and that it won’t hamper their firing operations. The winds are forecast to come from the north, which will assist their efforts.

Everything above the northern contingency line that runs along Forest Road 2S01 is the burn scar from the Rim Fire, and planners don’t expect any fire to get across the line to the north. They will be putting torches on the ground south of that line, and will back the fire down into the main fire.

Firing on the Ferguson Fire – photo USFS

Crews are also firing along road systems on the eastern side of the section above the river. Planners expect it to take several days to complete, but are confident they will keep it boxed in with the benefit of favorable weather conditions and the forecast for winds at their backs.

In the Big Grizzly and Little Grizzly Flat area where there are structures, firefighters have secured the area, say officials. Crews laid fire in there last night, doing point-protection firing, meaning that they are there at the structures to ensure that the houses are safe. There will continue to be resources staged throughout the area as firing operations continue, and firelines have been strengthened.

Planners continue to monitor the progress in the El Portal area, and are in discussions as to when residents will be allowed to return. They are working closely with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office to make that happen as soon as possible.

In the Foresta area, fire officials want to complete the firing operations to the west before they look at repopulation, but say they are evaluating the situation constantly.

Moving east along Henness Ridge, the fire that spotted east across the containment line yesterday was handled and no additional spots have occurred all the way over to Highway 41 in Yosemite National Park.

Crews have completed their firing operations below Yosemite West over to Highway 41. Successful burning south of the community means that instead of a fireline that is a few dozer blades wide, the line is now more than ½ mile wide in some places, and crews continue mop-up. Officials are evaluating when they might be able to repopulate Yosemite West, but estimate it will be a day or two while they make sure that the burn area below the community is cool and poses no threat.

Phos-Chek fire retardant tanker – photo USFS

After days of prep work along the Highway 41 corridor from Yosemite West to Wawona, firing operations began just after 7 p.m. this evening. Retardant has been put down on the east side of the road to stop any spotting, and hazard trees and brush have been removed. Structure protection is in place in the community of Wawona.

Once they bring the fire down to the line west of Wawona Campground, they will coordinate with the crews bringing the fire across the southern perimeter from Footman Ridge and Roundtree Saddle.

After an evening of touch-and-go with the fire behavior down near Roundtree Saddle yesterday, when the winds out of the north worked against them for a few hours, crews made good progress and held the line through the night. Firefighters were kept busy dealing with a few spot fires across the southern perimeter last night and again today, and crews have been working relentlessly to keep that south line in check.

The spot fires total about 20 to 30 acres, and crews have been using direct attack on each one. Fire officials are confident crews will be successful in containing all of them.

Once again, the contingency lines cut in by dozers south of the containment line helped catch the ember casts that blew south out of Devils Gulch.

Hazard tree removal, line improvement, and some firing operations continued today in the Roundtree area, and fire officials say there are some tough topographical features there that make the work difficult. However, once they have that area secured, they will be in good shape to keep taking the fire east to tie in with the line coming down west of Highway 41.

Ponderosa Basin lies directly south of the Roundtree/ Devils Gulch burning, and officials say it will be a couple days before they will be confident enough to repopulate that area.

Firemen Travis Haugh and Daniel Fonseca, Fresno Strike Team 9431C – photo PIO J Bartlett Team Rubicon- BLM for USFS

The situation in Lushmeadows, Jerseydale, Mariposa Pines and Sweetwater remains static and evacuations have been lifted. Resources are still present in the area, but officials say it is “looking really good” and they are feeling confident that they can move those areas into patrol status.

Everything along the western perimeter from Jerseydale north to the Merced River is secure.

Officials estimate 5,236 structures are threatened by the fire, and one non-residential structure has been destroyed.

There is now an estimated date for full containment of Aug. 15.

There are currently 3,766 personnel assigned to the incident including 244 engines, 92 crews, 47 water tenders, 77 dozers, 14 helicopters, and fixed-wing tankers as conditions allow.

There have been seven 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 Hot Shot, lost his life today when he was struck by a tree during a firing operation.

Yosemite National Park

Officials have announced that Yosemite Valley will reopen to all visitors at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3. Limited visitor services will be available inside Yosemite Valley, including campgrounds, lodging, and food service operations.

Yosemite Valley has been temporarily closed since July 25 due to smoke impacts and for firefighting operations along El Portal Road and the Wawona Road due to the Ferguson Fire.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Wawona Road (Highway 41) from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park to Tunnel View will remain closed until further notice.

The Hetch Hetchy area remains open. The Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120 West) to Crane Flat and Tioga Road (Highway 120 East) from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass, remain open to all visitors and vehicles. All trails and campgrounds along Tioga Road, including the Tuolumne Meadows Campground remain open. All visitor services along Tioga Road, including the High Sierra Camps and visitor services near Tuolumne Meadows, remain open.

Since the Ferguson Fire began on Friday, July 13, several other park facilities and roads have been closed due to fire impacts and the need to support firefighting operations. These closures include Glacier Point Road, Bridalveil Creek Campground, the Wawona Campground, and the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Yosemite National Park continues to work closely with the Incident Management Team and continues to assess park conditions daily.

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.

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 at the ski area at Badger Pass.

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, July 19. For information about the fire please call 530-377-6221.

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

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

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

New today: Evacuation orders for Vista Lago and Monte Vista were lifted today at noon. These areas will remain under a Fire Advisement.
Fire Advisement – This is an advisement only of a potential Evacuation Order should conditions change.

Mandatory evacuations are in place for:

  • Savage Trading Post
  • Redbud Lodge
  • Cedar Lodge
  • Indian Flat Campground
  • Ferguson Ridge
  • 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
  • Yosemite West
  • Anderson Valley
  • Old Yosemite Road
  • The north side of Triangle Road from Vista Lago to East Westfall and all side roads to the north
  • The north side of East Westfall to Old Mill and all side roads to the north
  • East Westfall Road to Chowchilla Mountain Road and all side roads
  • Entire Ponderosa Subdivision

Advisories have been issued for the following locations:

  • Triangle Road from East Westfall to Highway 49 South and all side roads

This area is 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.

A Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at Mariposa Elementary School at 5044 Jones Street in Mariposa. This shelter is accepting small pets with their owners.

The shelter at Mountain Christian Center at 40299 Highway 49 in Oakhurst has been closed due to lack of need by evacuees. They remain on standby and will reopen if conditions warrant.

The shelter at  New Life Christian Church located at 5089 Cole Road in Bootjack has been closed.

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.

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 is at full capacity.

Residents with small pets can be accommodated at the Mariposa Elementary School Shelter at 5044 Jones Street for those under mandatory evacuation, where Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT) is operating an emergency animal shelter. You must check in with Red Cross first. Please try to accommodate your pets with family and friends first, however your pet is welcome to be sheltered if necessary at the Mariposa Elementary School. For questions about pets, please call CCADT at 888-402-2238 ext. 0, and leave a message. Someone will return your call as soon as possible.

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.

Wawona Road (Highway 41) between Chilnualna Falls Road in Wawona and Bridalveil Fall Road in Yosemite Valley were closed beginning at noon on July 25.

Also closed are:

  • Chowchilla Mountain Road at Highway 49 south
  • Harris Road at Highway 49 south
  • All roads inside Ponderosa Basin Subdivision
  • River Road from Briceburg to the gate at Railroad Flat and all campgrounds
  • Anderson Valley Road
  • Old Yosemite Road
  • Summit Road
  • East Westfall Road and all side roads

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.

Mariposa County Public Works will be at Lushmeadows Store today and tomorrow (July 29 & 30) from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. providing FREE residential spoiled food waste disposal.

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:

Below is this morning’s PIO map and the operations infrared map from 0700.

 

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