Massive Wildfire Near Yosemite Is Likely to Cross Park Boundary

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Photo of the Ferguson Fire from U.S. Forest Service field staff taken along Highway 140 and the Merced River corridor. (Courtesy U.S. Forest Service - Sierra National Forest)

Updated Saturday 6:45 p.m.

Authorities say two more California firefighters have been injured while battling a stubborn and growing wildfire in steep terrain west of Yosemite National Park.

Fire spokesman Rich Eagan says the firefighters were hospitalized Friday after suffering back injuries. Both have been released and are expected to fully recover.

A total of four firefighters have been injured and one killed since the blaze broke out July 13.

The fire has scorched more than 29,000 acres and is approximately 6 percent contained. More than 2,900 personnel are battling the conflagration.

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A deadly wildland blaze burning near Yosemite National Park will likely cross into the park's western boundary at some point, fire officials said Saturday.

The Ferguson Fire, which ignited in the Sierra National Forest more than a week ago, has scorched 27, 129 acres—more than 42 square miles—of dry brush along steep terrain. As of Saturday morning, the blaze was just 7 percent contained.

"All indications are it is likely to reach at least the far western edge of the park boundary at some point," said Forest Service spokesman Jim Mackensen. "It's still miles away from that, but given the conditions, the terrain, it's probably one of those things we're not going to be able to prevent."

Yosemite officials say the park remains open, though one of its scenic routes, Glacier Point Road, is closed in order to stage firefighters. Glacier Point overlook offers a sweeping view of the park, including landmarks like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

Park officials are also advising visitors that smoky conditions continue to obstruct views in the highly-trafficked Yosemite Valley.

A view of Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park obscured by smoke from the Ferguson Fire on July 21, 2018. (Yosemite Conservancy)

Most of the fire’s spread overnight came north of Highway 140, near Ned’s Gulch, officials said. On Friday afternoon, the blaze jumped the Merced River and crossed into the Stanislaus National Forest, burning more than 2,000 acres north of the river.

"We are working in conjunction with the Stanislaus National Forest and formulating some plans," Mackensen said. "We did forecast this possibility, so the Stanislaus National Forest has been opening up some of the old bulldozer lines and fire lines from previous fires."

On Saturday morning officials issued a new mandatory evacuation order for Yosemite West, an unincorporated community located just outside the southern area of Yosemite National Park.

The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office on Friday ordered mandatory evacuations for Old El Portal, Rancheria Flat, Foresta and Yosemite View Lodge. Previous evacuation orders remain in effect the communities of Cedar Lodge, Savage’s Trading Post, Jerseydale, Sweetwater Ridge, Mariposa Pines and the stretch of Incline Road between Clearing House and the Foresta Bridge.

The wildfire has not destroyed any homes or businesses, but 216 structures remain threatened.

Heavy equipment operator Braden Varney, 36, died last Saturday after his bulldozer overturned in a steep ravine near El Portal. Officials say four additional firefighters have suffered injuries battling the blaze.

A memorial for Varney will take place at the House Church in Modesto at 10:30 a.m. on Monday.

This story has been updated to include the mandatory evacuation order for Yosemite West.