Suppression efforts continue on the approximately 250 acre Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite National Park. Air and ground attack has been aided by favorable weather conditions, which have resulted in minimal fire growth on the western boundary of the park near the Highway 140 entrance. Currently, there is no estimate on the fire’s containment; however crews continue to make significant progress. The National Park Service is being assisted by the United States Forest Service and the California Interagency Incident Management Team 3. Highway 140 into Yosemite National Park remains closed at the park boundary. Yosemite National Park remains open and Yosemite Valley can be accessed via highways 41, 120 west, and 120 east via Tioga Pass. Campgrounds, hotels, and other visitor services are open and operating at normal hours. The evacuation of the community of Foresta is still in effect. While fighting the fire yesterday 62-year-old Craig Hunt, of San Jose, lost his life after the S-2T air tanker he was flying crashed. He was a 13 year veteran contract pilot for Cal Fire.
Members of the search and rescue team stayed with Hunt's body Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning the procession bringing his body home was met by an honor guard for the transition from Federal Park Service to California State Officials. The cause of the wreck is still under investigation and no further details have been given.
Don Neubacher, Superintendent of the Yosemite National Park, released the following statement in response to Hunt's death.
“With great sadness, the Yosemite National Park community would like to express its deepest condolences to Cal Fire for the loss of pilot, Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt. Yesterday, Craig lost his life fighting the Dog Rock Fire,” Neubacher said. “He died serving and protecting the public from wildland fire. As members of the wildland firefighting community, we also mourn his loss and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
Fifth District Assembly Member, Frank Bigelow, released a statement saying he too is deeply saddened by the tragedy.
“I am heartbroken to have received the news of the passing of Craig Hunt, whose airtanker went down in the Assembly District that I represent. As a volunteer firefighter myself, I know firsthand the dangers that first responders like Mr. Hunt face on a daily basis, where each day fighting a fire could be our last. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time." Bigelow said. “This tragedy unfortunately emphasizes the dangers that firefighters are facing during the extreme drought. All Californians owe a debt of gratitude to people like Mr. Hunt for putting their lives on the line each day to protect our lives and property. It is because of their efforts that California is able to limit the impact of these devastating fires.”
* The Dog Rock Fire, which began yesterday afternoon in El Portal, is currently at 246 acres, with 0% containment.
* A Type 1 team will take over management of the fire at 6 p.m. this evening. Federal helicopters and tankers are being used today.
* A major press conference was held this morning. The NPS expressed condolences to the family of the deceased pilot and CalFire. A NPS honor guard returned the remains of the pilot to CalFire honor guard this morning.
* Highway 140 remains closed, it will likely be a minimum of 24-48 hours before it is re-opened. There is active fire along the road, rock fall hazards, and an active NTSB investigation.
* Electrical power remains out in Yosemite Valley but we hope to restore it within 48 hours if conditions improve. There is still active fire underneath the power lines.
* Evacuation orders are still in effect for residents of Foresta. There are no other evacuation orders at this time.
* All of the other areas of the park remain open. California Highways 41, 120 - Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Pass as well as the road immediately in the Valley remain open.
* Smoke will likely be prevalent in El Portal in the morning and in Yosemite Valley in the afternoon.