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Arroyo Grande Hotshots conduct burn operation on Hwy 41 in Yosemite - photo credit J Bartlett Team Rubicon-BLM for USFS

Minimal Growth On Ferguson Fire, Weather Delays Some Firing Operations

MARIPOSA COUNTY — Firefighters held the growth of the Ferguson Fire to just 228 acres today. The fire is now estimated at 58,074 acres and is still 33 percent contained.

Officials announced earlier today that the closure of some portions of Yosemite National Park will be extended to Aug. 5.

Firefighters cannot always count on being able to conduct firing operations as planned. If winds and humidity levels work against them, they have to postpone planned operations. That has happened during a few operational periods on this fire, but crews continue make improvements to their section of the line and are ready to go when conditions allow.

North of the Merced River where the fire is burning on the Stanislaus National Forest, crews continued to monitor the portion of the line on the west that has been fired, and are doing mop-up. They did not have the opportunity to conduct firing operations as weather conditions were not favorable last night. Conditions were also not optimal throughout today’s shift, but everything is in place and they continued to do prep work and established check line for anticipated firing operations tonight on Thirteen Ridge up to Pilot Peak.

On the eastern portion of that big box, crews were able to fire partway up toward the Merced Grove along Forest Road 2S20 last night, but the weather didn’t cooperated for firing on the day shift. Crews worked on removing hazard trees and prepped the line for burning.

Once firing along the east and west flanks has been complete, planners anticipate firing south off Pilot Ridge in the next 24 to 48 hours. Structures in the Anderson Valley area are being protected by firefighters as these operations are being carried out.

Arroyo Grande Hotshots conduct burn operation on Highway 41 in Yosemite – photo credit J Bartlett Team Rubicon-BLM for USFS

In response to the danger posed by the fire on the north, and the heavy fire equipment traffic, 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closure is based on the current and expected fire behavior and will be in effect until Sept. 30, or until replaced or rescinded.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.

With the good progress along the Merced River, evacuations were lifted yesterday from Savage Trading Post – the point of origin of the Ferguson Fire – east to El Portal. Old El Portal, Foresta and Yosemite West remain under a mandatory evacuation order, and Highway 140 is open to residents only (see details below). It is not yet open to the public.

About a mile southeast of El Portal, a slopover east of the line continues to present a challenge. Hazard trees and rocks are falling continuously in the steep, dangerous terrain, and fire managers are not willing to put crews on the ground there; it’s just not safe. The fire is about 200 acres as of 6 p.m. today.

Planners are using the road systems, a rock scree and a ridge system to draw a box around the slopover. Crews began constructing indirect lines and performed tactical burning along a road south of the slopover in response to the fire’s southeasterly movement. Additional personnel have been sent to the Foresta area in case the fire shifts to a more northeastern direction.

Exacerbating the problem of the slopover is the dense inversion, which prohibits air operations until very late in the day. A heavy helicopter was able to get up over the fire late yesterday, but could only work for a couple hours.

Crewmen from Grayback Forestry on firing operation on Highway 41 in Yosemite – photo credit Photo by J Bartlett Team Rubicon -BLM for USFS

Inside Yosemite National Park, crews burned the west side of Highway 41 last night, down to within a mile of Wawona Campground. Firing operations will continue south this evening as they work their way down to tie in to the Merced River before continuing on to connect with the line coming from the west across Chowchilla Mountain Road.

On the southern perimeter, firing operations continued east to the Crow Peak area last night. Crews continued that burning today over to Battalion Pass with good success, now that they have moved out of the heavy fuels and unfavorable winds near Roundtree Saddle. There were no spots over the line today, and the fireline in the Chowchilla Mountain Road area is now 1,000 feet deep in some places.

Planners are estimating 24 to 48 hours to complete the southeast corner of the fire, and connect the eastern and southern firelines, if conditions are favorable.

The slopover north of Ponderosa Basin continued to be troublesome overnight, but there are sufficient resources in there to handle it, and there were no problems today. Residents in Ponderosa Basin were allowed to return home yesterday, and the fire advisory was lifted at 6 p.m. today

The western perimeter remains quiet up through Jerseydale, Mariposa Pines, and on up Sweetwater Ridge. Residents will start seeing some equipment over the next few days as repair efforts begin. Firelines will be repaired and measures taken to prevent erosion where the ground has been disturbed due to suppression work.

Officials estimate there are 2,846 structures 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 3,558 personnel assigned to the incident including 203 engines, 95 crews, 43 water tenders, 62 dozers, 14 helicopters, and fixed-wing tankers as conditions allow.

There have been nine 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.

Area residents can expect to see increased smoke during the next few days as firing operations continue. 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.

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. 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 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., near Savage Trading Post on the south side of the Merced River canyon along Highway 140. 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: Fire Advisements have been lifted for the Ponderosa Basin area and East Westfall Road including all side roads. East Westfall Road and all roads leading to and inside Ponderosa Basin are now open with no restrictions.

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

  • Savages 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.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:

  • 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

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 from 1.5 miles West of Midpines to the Foresta Bridge- Open to Residents Only
  • Highway 140 from Foresta Bridge to Yosemite National Park Entrance
  • El Portal Road
  • Foresta Road from El Portal Road to Foresta and all side roads
  • Summit Road
  • Highway 41 between Chilnualna Falls Road in Wawona and Bridalveil Fall Road in Yosemite Valley
  • River Road from Briceburg to the gate at Railroad Flat, and all campground areas along Highway 140
  • Harris Road at Highway 49S

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:

We did not include the PIO map because it still contains incorrect information.

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