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Hand crews supporting the Arroyo Grande Hotshots along Highway 41 in Yosemite - photo credit J Bartlett Team Rubicon-BLM for USFS

Smoke From 68,610-Acre Ferguson Fire Closes Highway 120

MARIPOSA COUNTY –  The Ferguson Fire grew by 5,727 acres overnight and is now estimated at 68,610 acres with 39 percent containment.

Officials are reporting this morning that a spot fire on the north has resulted in the closure of Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) because of smoke and congestion from firefighting vehicles and equipment.

The road is closed west of Crane Flat. At this time, the only entrance into Yosemite National Park is Lee Vining (Highway 120) to Crane Flat.

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.

Firefighters worked throughout the night to contain a couple spot fires that jumped the line on the southeast perimeter at about 5 p.m. yesterday, forcing the evacuation of Wawona. Crews are working to construct a containment line, anchoring in at Big Creek, in an attempt to hold the spot fires. Officials anticipate having the line completed by midday.

The communities of Yosemite West and Foresta remain under a mandatory evacuation as the northeastern portion of the fire continues to grow, south of the Merced River.

Firefighters kept pace with that section of fire, say officials, and matched the fire’s moderate growth with tactical firing along the 30X Road to buffer Yosemite West. Crews also prepared containment lines along Highway 41 to further box in the fire and protect the community of Foresta, should the fire shift to the northeast.

The containment plan entails building lines from the 30X Road east to Wawona Road, then north to Elephant Rock. The line will follow Elephant Ridge until it connects with a rocky slope to the west.

On the north end of the fire, a spot fire resulted in the closure of Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) because of smoke and congestion from firefighting vehicles and equipment.

Once firefighters contain the spot fire, they will begin tactical firing operations off Pilot Ridge along the Mariposa-Tuolumne County line, weather permitting.

Officials have reduced the number of structures threatened by the fire to 815. 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 3,344 personnel assigned to the incident including 145 engines, 88 crews, 45 water tenders, 49 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.

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.

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 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.

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 7 p.m. 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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