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Helicopter water drop over Ferguson Fire - photo credit Edgar Morales

Ferguson Fire Over 69,000 Acres, Community Meeting Scheduled

MARIPOSA COUNTY – Huge columns of smoke have been visible the last two days over the Ferguson Fire as the high pressure system weakens and the inversion lifts earlier in the day.

The fire is now estimated at 69,440 acres and is 41 percent contained.

Damage assessment teams have been able to get into some of the burn areas of the fire, and report that 10 structures have been lost in the Ned Gulch area on the north end of the fire. Officials say it appears they were not inhabited structures, and that the road had been washed out for some time, requiring teams to go on foot to assess the damage. We will provide more details as they become available.

Ferguson Fire Unified Commanders, the U.S. Forest Service and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, will host a community meeting to discuss the current fire situation on Friday, Aug. 3, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Mountain Christian Center, located at 40299 Highway 49 in Oakhurst (behind True Value Hardware). Officials will provide an overview of the full suppression efforts. Handouts of current fire information will be available, and officials will be available to answer questions. Please arrive early as the meeting will start promptly at 6 p.m. If you have questions about the meeting, please call the Ferguson Fire Information Line at (530) 377-6221.

On the northern section of the fire burning on the Stanislaus National Forest, a spot fire over the lines yesterday created dense smoke and forced the closure of Highway 120 west of Crane Flat. Highway 140 on the east side of the Sierra from Lee Vining over Tioga Pass is now the only access to Yosemite National Park.

The spot fire is reportedly not inside the grove. Firefighters were unable to engage the fire directly due to the massive amount of hazard tree dangers, so they had to back off to Highway 120 as their containment line. Still, the job of removing hazard trees is daunting, especially those that have been compromised by fire.

Resource limitations and unfavorable weather conditions have limited burning on the Thirteen Ridge up to Pilot Peak for the last few days. This afternoon however, burning started from Pilot Peak east to meet up with crews burning west from the Merced Grove. Officials expect all those lines to be tied in by tomorrow, conditions permitting. They will reevaluate reopening Highway 120 in the morning.

In the El Portal area, officials continue to evaluate conditions. Foresta remains under a mandatory evacuation order as the fire pushes to the east, on the south side of the Merced River. There are structure specialists, engines and some heavy equipment working in the Foresta area, though the fire is not directly threatening the community at this time.

This part of the fire spotted over the lines south of El Portal several days ago. That spot is now part of the larger fire, and planners are drawing a new “big box” in that area, laying out where new containment lines will be set.

The eastern line of the box is Highway 41. Crews have done prep work from Yosemite West north on Highway 41 toward Elephant Rock as a containment line for that eastern flank. There are significant rock ridges and screes between the fire’s edge and Elephant Rock, and it may slow as it moves into those areas.

In Yosemite West, engines are staged throughout the community, which also remains under mandatory evacuation, and has been since July 21. Crews continue to fire the 30X road to the northeast, to stay ahead of the fire.

Southwest of Wawona, a spot fire east of the line forced the evacuation of that community late yesterday afternoon. As of 6 p.m. this evening, crews had a line around the spot and will suspend any further firing operations until that portion of the fire is secure. They have about one-half mile of line left to fire until they tie the southeast corner together.

Along Chowchilla Mountain Road, west to Crow Peak and Footman Ridge, there have been a few spot fires in the last few days, but crews have picked them up and continue to do mop-up and make sure the line remains secure.

Suppression repair has begun in the Jerseydale, Mariposa Pines and Sweetwater areas. The lines are secure up to the Merced River Canyon.

Officials have reduced the number of structures threatened by the fire to 695. Ten structures have been destroyed, though officials do not believe that any been recently inhabited.

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

There are currently 2,845 personnel assigned to the incident including 136 engines, 66 crews, 50 water tenders, 38 dozers, 14 helicopters, and fixed-wing tankers as conditions allow.

There have been eleven 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 Sunday when he was struck by a tree during a firing operation.

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, and another on the Stanislaus National Forest.

Cal Fire has exited Unified Command as of 6 a.m. today 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, will assume management of the Ferguson Fire at 6 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, transitioning in for California Team 4, who has be managing the fire since 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., near Savage Trading Post on the south side of the Merced River canyon along Highway 140. The cause remains under investigation.

Area residents can expect to see increased smoke during the next few days as firing operations continue and the high pressure system over the fire weakens. Tactical firing is an effective way to reduce fuel loads while simultaneously widening or extending containment lines. It can reduce the duration and intensity of wildfires, particularly by decreasing available fuels and weakening the fire as it approaches containment lines.

During all tactical firing operations on the Ferguson Fire, firefighters and law enforcement maintain a presence in evacuated communities to ensure home and structure safety.

The high pressure system above the fire is weakening which will result in warmer and drier conditions. With lower winds speeds and the inversion layer forecasted to lift by midday, residents are likely to see taller smoke columns than they are used to seeing. Residents can monitor the latest air quality and health advisories at:

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.

Yosemite National Park

Officials have announced that the closure of some portions of Yosemite National Park will be extended to Aug. 5. This now includes Hetch Hetchy. When the park does open these areas, 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 Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120 West) to Crane Flat is closed. Tioga Road (Highway 120 East) from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass remains 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.

Be 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 yesterday: A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the community of Wawona as of 6 p.m. yesterday. Residents should leave on Highway 41 to the south gate. This evacuation has been done as a precaution, according to officials.

The Evacuation Orders were lifted at 7 p.m. yesterday for El Portal Trailer Park. This area will be open to residents only and will remain under a Fire Advisement. All residents will need to use the ENTRY POINT on Highway 140 in the Midpines area. The evacuation order remains in effect for Old El Portal and Park Line/ Yosemite View Lodge area.

Evacuations lifted for Highway 140 Corridor – This area will include the following for RESIDENTS ONLY:

  • Savage Trading Post
  • Cedar Lodge
  • Indian Flat
  • Incline Road
  • Rancheria Flat- Government Housing & National Park Service
  • El Portal Complex

All residents will need to enter using Highway 140 in the Midpines area. The road remains closed to the public.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:

  • Wawona
  • Old El Portal
  • River Road from Briceburg to last BLM Campground
  • Foresta
  • Yosemite View Lodge
  • Yosemite West
  • Anderson Valley
  • Old Yosemite Road

Evacuation Advisories:

  • Cedar Lodge/Indian Flat Campground
  • Rancheria Flat and all campgrounds along Highway 140
  • Savage Trading Post
  • El Portal Trailer Park

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

  • Anderson Valley Road
  • Foresta Road
  • River Road from Briceburg to the gate at Railroad Flat and all campground areas along 140
  • Summit Road
  • Old Yosemite Road
  • Wawona Road (Highway 41) between Chilnualna Falls in Wawona and Bridalveil Road in Yosemite Valley
  • Incline Road and Highway 140 from the entrance to Yosemite National Park to 1.5 miles east of Midpines are closed to everyone except residents.
  • Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) west of Crane Flat

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:

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