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Ferguson Fire - photo credit J Bartlett Team Rubicon-BLM for USFS

Ferguson Fire Pushes Farther Into Yosemite, Some Areas Evacuated Again

MARIPOSA COUNTY – With the lifting of the inversion, the fire behavior on the Ferguson Fire picked up substantially this afternoon as it jumped across Highway 41 in Yosemite National Park.

The fire is now estimated at 77,207 acres, still with 41 percent containment.

At about 6:30 a.m. today, the fire jumped to the north side of the Merced River about a mile east of El Portal. It quickly became established in Crane Creek and began a run up the mountain toward Foresta, which has been under an mandatory evacuation order since July 20. Fire officials estimate the fire near Foresta at 1,500 to 2,000 acres as of 6 p.m.

Additional resources were sent into Foresta for structure protection and crews engaged in point protection – targeting individual structures – across the community. Dozers have put in containment line and the fire is backing down toward that line. Crews will fire the line if necessary to protect the structures. The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office has sent additional law enforcement to patrol the area, as they do with any evacuated area.

Just before 6 p.m., the community of El Portal was evacuated for the second time along with Incline Road, Cedar Lodge and Savage Trading Post. The evacuations were ordered out of concern that shifting winds overnight could bring the fire back into the communities, say officials.

All non-essential employees were evacuated from Yosemite Valley by noon today. The Valley has been closed to the public since July 25. While Yosemite Valley was not in imminent danger, say officials, dangerous road conditions, smoke and a loss of power prompted the evacuation until further notice.

Just after 3 p.m., the fire jumped Highway 41 north of Yosemite West near Chinquapin Junction and headed toward the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard area (Badger Pass) where the second fire camp is located. That prompted a hard closure on Highway 41 (Wawona Road) from the Tunnel View south to Chinquapin Junction as burning snags were reported to be falling into the road. Highway 41 was cut off at Avalanche Creek.

Glacier Point Road was also closed to all traffic, including fire equipment. Fire officials say the fire near Badger Pass is not overrunning the ski area and the 100 firefighters are safe, but it is pushing in that direction. Glacier Point Road was cut off at Glacier Viewpoint. Both roadways are being continually evaluated to see if they can be reopened for fire traffic. Firefighters on the day shift who were working in other areas when the road was closed and who have been staying at the Badger Pass fire camp will have to head to the ICP in Ahwahnee for the night.

Crews have completed firing operations around Yosemite West, which remains under an evacuation order. The lines held overnight, and crews continued to work on strengthening them today. Engines are staged throughout the community for structure protection, and no structures have been lost. Everything is holding as of 6 p.m.

In the Wawona area, firefighters have held the spot fire that prompted the evacuation of the community on Wednesday evening. Crews continue to improve the lines around the spot, and have held off on firing the last 1/2-mile of line that will tie the eastern perimeter in with the line running over from Chowchilla Mountain Road on the south.

Natural resource specialists have begun surveying the western side of the fire to assess areas requiring repair and mitigation. Suppression repair has begun in the Jerseydale, Mariposa Pines and Sweetwater areas. The entire western perimeter is in patrol status. A few hot spots popped up as the day heated up, but they were quickly handled.

On the Stanislaus National Forest, Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) remains closed between Crane Flat and the Big Oak Flat entrance of Yosemite National Park. At this time, the only entrance into the park is Lee Vining (Highway 120) to Crane Flat.

Officials evaluated the situation on Highway 120 several times today, and determined that it was not safe to reopen due to the large amount of burning hazard trees next to the road that firefighters are not able to mitigate.

Dense smoke has limited visibility and kept aircraft from engaging for most of the day.

There are 695 structures threatened by the fire. Ten structures have been destroyed, though officials do not believe that any been recently inhabited.

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 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.

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

There are currently 2,934 personnel assigned to the incident including 201 engines, 71 crews, 58 water tenders, 36 dozers, 5 masticators, 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.

If community members see new fire activity, they are 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 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. yesterday 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, has assumed management of the Ferguson Fire at 6 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, transitioning in for California Team 4, which 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.

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.

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.

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 today: Mandatory evacuations orders were issued for Cedar Lodge, El Portal Trailer Court, Incline Road (from Foresta Bridge to  Clearing House), Rancheria Flat – Government Housing, and Savage Trading Post.

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

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:

  • Wawona
  • El Portal
  • Old El Portal
  • El Portal Trailer Court
  • Incline Road (from Foresta Bridge to Clearing House)
  • Rancheria Flat – Government Housing
  • Savage Trading Post
  • River Road from Briceburg to last BLM Campground
  • Foresta
  • Yosemite View Lodge
  • Yosemite West
  • Anderson Valley
  • Old Yosemite Road

A Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at New Life Christian Fellowship, 5089 Cole Road in Bootjack.

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

The Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT) has closed their emergency animal shelter at the Mariposa Elementary School, as all the pets have gone home. If you have small animals and have been evacuated, please call CCADT at 888-402-2238 ext. 0. If no one answers, 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
  • Incline Road (from Foresta Bridge to Clearing House)
  • 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:

There have been no updated maps posted as of yet. We will include them in this article as soon as they become available.

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