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Smoke between Highway 140 and Big Oak Flat Road - photo USFS

No Growth On Ferguson Fire Overnight, Yosemite Valley Reopens To Residents Only

MARIPOSA COUNTY – As firefighters continue to gain the upper hand on most divisions of the Ferguson Fire, the focus is now on the northeastern section where the fire threatens to move into the north and south rims of Yosemite Valley.

The fire is still estimated at 94,992 acres and is 43 percent contained. The containment number is expected to increase later today.

Residents of Yosemite Valley were allowed to return home as of 10 a.m. this morning using the Highway 140 entrance. The area remains closed to the public.

The fire is affecting three major roads leading into Yosemite Valley – Big Oak Flat Road, El Portal Road (Highway 140) and Wawona Road (Highway 41). It is burning in extremely steep terrain between the Big Oak Flat Road and Highway 140, moving toward the Cascade Falls picnic area. Securing the fire at Cascade Falls area is critical to preventing the movement of fire into Yosemite Valley and spreading to the South Rim and North Rim.

Firefighters have hose lays above the big tunnel on the Big Oak Flat Road and are attempting to pinch off the fire in this area. Crews completed a successful burnout operation last night over the tunnel.

Crews are completing a hand line in the Crane Creek drainage above El Portal to follow the fire’s edge and tie in to the containment lines around Foresta.

The hottest and most active part of the fire continues to be between Wawona Road, Glacier Point Road and Chinquapin. It is burning into old fire scars and the lighter fuel loads within these footprints is moderating fire behavior and allowing crews to work directly on the fire’s edge. Hotshot crews are constructing and reinforcing direct hand line from North Wawona Road around the fire’s edge to Glacier Point Road and west to Chinquapin. Spot fires have been identified and crews are working on containing those spots.

There is a combination of hand line and dozer line in place protecting the communities Foresta and Yosemite West. Crews remain for structure protection, however the fire activity is minimal.

Residents returning to Yosemite West should expect delays along Highway 41 as firefighters clear the road. Firefighters and utility crews continue working in the communities restoring power and reducing hazards created by the fire.

Below Wawona on the southeastern corner, officials are very confident about the fireline to the west of the community and anticipate moving that section into the containment column very soon. Crews continue to do mop-up and secure the line.

Suppression repair efforts are underway on the southern and western portions of the fire. This may include using heavy equipment to build water bars, bring in berms and vegetation if available.

Repairing dozer lines and hand lines is important in order to reduce erosion during future storms and to allow vegetation regrowth. This also helps to restore the habitat of the local flora and fauna within the next few years. Repairs also include protection of cultural/archaeological sites by reducing access to those sites.

Residents and visitors returning to the area should be cautions of the smoky conditions, since the weather on the fire will remain the same as over the past few days. The stable atmosphere continues to aid firefighters in reaching full suppression, as the lack of updrafts and strong winds reduces the probability of long range spot fires. Without a large developed smoke column the embers will not travel far from the heat source, however the vegetation is extremely dry and the probability of that vegetation igniting with an ember is ninety percent.

The inversion created by the current weather conditions is beneficial for fire operations, however the smoke in the valley will not improve significantly until the weather changes. Smoke and multiple smoke columns will be visible as unburned fuels within the interior of the fire continue to burn and smolder.

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.

The estimated date for full containment is Aug. 15.

There are currently 2,039 personnel assigned to the incident including 157 engines, 25 crews, 18 water tenders, 28 dozers, 5 masticators, 14 helicopters, and fixed-wing tankers as conditions allow.

Officials report 995 structures threatened by the fire. Ten structures have been destroyed. Damage assessment teams have been able to get into some of the burn areas of the fire, and report that most of the 10 structures reported lost were in the Ned Gulch area on the north end of the fire. According to locals, these were historic mining operation structures that were being restored and used weekly for various types of outings and expeditions.

There have been 13 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 July 29 when he was struck by a tree during a firing operation.

Yosemite National Park

Officials have announced that the closure of some portions of Yosemite National Park will be extended indefinitely. 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 closed since July 25 due to smoke impacts and for firefighting operations along El Portal Road and the Wawona Road.

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 has been reopened. 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.

Non-essential personnel in Yosemite Valley evacuated Friday due to hazardous road conditions, smoke and a loss of power, were allowed to return home today. Yosemite Valley has been closed to the public since July 25.

Yosemite National Park is working 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.

Air quality issues

For information on air quality 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.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has also warned that a health caution is in place and smoke impacts will continue until the fire is extinguished.

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine, microscopic particles that can cause health problems including triggering asthma attacks, aggravating chronic heart and lung diseases, and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to the health effects from these pollutants. Anyone being exposed to poor air quality or wildfire smoke should move inside to an air-conditioned environment.

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.

General Information

If community members see new fire activity, they are asked 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 on the Stanislaus National Forest. Personnel at the fire camp at Badger Pass have been relocated to the ICP in Ahwahnee due to active fire in the area.

Cal Fire exited Unified Command as of 6 a.m., Thursday, July 26, 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 as of 6 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, transitioning in for California Team 4, which had be managing the fire since July 19.

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

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.

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

Evacuations

New today: Residents of Yosemite Valley were allowed to return home as of 10 a.m. using the Highway 140 entrance only. Long delays expected between 1 and 4 p.m. and PG&E works to restore power. The Valley is still closed to the public.

New yesterday: Highway 120 reopened at 1 p.m. The Big Oak Flat Road remains closed.

Evacuation orders were lifted for Anderson Valley, Hall Gulch and Old Yosemite in the Greeley Hill Area.

Highway 140 is now open from Briceburg to the Yosemite National Park entrance gate. Yosemite Valley remains closed.

Evacuation orders were lifted at 7 p.m. for Yosemite West. Residents must enter through the south gate on Highway 41. Due to the power outage and stoppage of water service a boil order has been issued. Residents are advised not to drink or cook with tap water until further notice. For further information on the boil order please contact Mariposa County Public Works Department at 209-966-5356.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:

  • Foresta
  • Yosemite Valley – residents only.

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

  • Foresta Road
  • Summit Road
  • Highway 41 from the south gate of Yosemite to Yosemite Valley (Bridalveil Fall)

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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