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Retardant drop on South Fork Fire - photo NPS

Update On The South Fork Fire Wednesday 6 PM

YOSEMITE — For the third straight day, residents and visitors on the southern end of Yosemite National Park woke to a haze from the smoke of the South Fork Fire.

The smoke had lifted by this afternoon in the community of Wawona, where residents are still in a preparation mode for any possible evacuation. However, the fire is not directly threatening the community at this time.

The heavy smoke over the fire itself causes delays in deploying air resources in the morning, but once in the air, they are hitting hard on the west and south flanks of the fire with retardant and water, and tying the firelines into natural barriers.

The fire is still estimated at 2,296 acres with 5 percent containment.

With the danger posed to firefighters by the steep, rugged terrain and the large number of dead trees, there will be no night shift working this fire. Therefore, we will only be updating after the morning briefing, unless major changes occur.

There are currently 350 personnel assigned to the incident.

The fire is burning in an area of heavy tree mortality due to bark beetle infestation and poor forest health. Due to the proximity of the community of Wawona, as well as the challenging terrain, the primary objective is firefighter and public safety.

The fire continues to move north and east from Wawona, and is burning on a south-southwest aspect in steep, rocky, inaccessible terrain.

At this hour, the fireline is holding north of the South Fork of the Merced River, and east of Chilnualna Creek.

The Wawona area continues to be on alert to make appropriate pre-evacuation preparations. If there is an actual need for evacuation, there will be door-to-door notifications by park staff.

In order to maintain the safety of park visitors and allow fire management operations to continue unimpeded, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park is designating the following area as closed until further notice is given:

  • The Swinging Bridge Trail on both the north and south sides of the South Fork of the Merced River.
  • The Chilnualna Falls Trail from Wawona Trailhead to the top of Chilnualna Falls.
  • The two mile connecting trail heading north from the top of Chilnualna Falls to the intersection of the Buena Vista Trail.
  • The Chilnualna Creek Trail from the top of Chilnualna Falls east to the intersection of the Buena Vista and Buck Camp trails (Just east of Johnson Lake).
  • Off-trail areas in the vicinity are closed (i.e. all areas within the shaded circle on the map below).
  • All climbing routes on and around Wawona Dome are closed.

“Notice of closure will be posted and area will be monitored to ensure compliance,” say Park officials. “Your cooperation in complying with this temporary restriction is greatly appreciated. The designation will remain in place until rescinded.”

The Office of the Superintendent in Yosemite this morning announced these operational changes:

  • Wawona Campground is closed.
  • Bridalveil Creek Campground closes on Wednesday morning.
  • Wawona trail (mule) rides are not operating.
  • Big Trees Golf Course is closed.
  • The Badger Pass-Glacier Point shuttle will not operate until further notice as the incident command post is occupying the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area facility and parking lot.
  • The Glacier Point Road will will remain open to the public however it will close periodically between 10am and 5pm each day when parking at Glacier Point fills to capacity (and will reopen when sufficient space is available). Traffic delays should be expected.
  • A voluntary ban on wood fires is in place in Yosemite Valley to reduce smoke. A mandatory ban may be instituted in the days to come.

The South Fork Fire was reported just after 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13, and is burning on the South Fork of the Merced River drainage, south of Wawona Dome approximately one mile east of the Swinging Bridge.

Heavy smoke continues to impact Wawona and the areas surrounding Yosemite, especially overnight and through the morning hours, adding more smoke to what is being produced by the Empire Fire near Bridalveil Campground, which is now estimated at 1,320 acres.

Air quality in Wawona is expected to be extremely smoky and to reach unhealthy/ hazardous conditions. Smoke is expected to fill the canyons west of Wawona to Mariposa, and affect visibility along Highway 140 from El Portal to Mariposa, Wawona Road south to Fish Camp, and roads along Tioga Pass to the Mono Lake area.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The estimated date of containment is Sunday, Sept. 3.

For additional information:

Air quality links for Yosemite National Park:

Click here for a perimeter map.

Click here for interactive map.

This article was edited at 6:40 p.m. on Aug. 16 to reflect a greater number of personnel on the fire.

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