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At least 100 structures threatened by Railroad Fire near Yosemite, as Highway 41 remains closed

Tenaya Lodge manager describes Railroad Fire evacuation effort

Paul Ratchford, general manager of Tenaya Lodge near Yosemite National Park, describes how his staff watched the Railroad Fire grow and began making preparations to evacuate the lodge on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.
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Paul Ratchford, general manager of Tenaya Lodge near Yosemite National Park, describes how his staff watched the Railroad Fire grow and began making preparations to evacuate the lodge on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.

A raging inferno that started a short distance south from Yosemite National Park, forcing the evacuation of Fish Camp including at Tenaya Lodge, was at 920 acres and 5% contained Wednesday morning.

Highway 41 remained closed from the Cedar Valley area north of Oakhurst to the entrance of Yosemite National Park, and in the Wawona area of the park. All visitors are encouraged to access Yosemite through Highway 49 and Highway 140 instead.

The reduction in acreage on the Railroad Fire, from 1,000 estimated acres Tuesday evening, is due to more accurate mapping, U.S. Forest Service officials said in a release.

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A shot of the Railroad Fire taken from the Fish Camp area the evening of Aug. 29. Numerous trees can be seen being claimed by the flames. Steve Montalto Special to Sierra Star

The cause of the fire is under investigation. It is reportedly burning in steep, thick vegetation, making access difficult for 350 firefighting personnel assigned to the blaze alongside 26 engines, seven hand crews, three helicopters, and 10 air tankers. Some air attack crews were having trouble with smoke impeding their vision Wednesday.

The Railroad Fire began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday near Highway 41 and Mill Canyon Road, close to Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and the Narrow Gauge Inn. It rapidly erupted to a projected 1,000 acres - and the potential to burn up to 4,000 more - within five hours as it approached Tenaya Lodge and Yosemite itself.

As of Tuesday evening, the well-known Fish Camp locations were reportedly still intact. Guests at Tenaya Lodge were being allowed to gather in the Wawona area of Yosemite by 10 a.m. for an escort to retrieve their belongings.

Throughout Tuesday afternoon, multiple mandatory evacuations were put in place as at least seven structures in the Fish Camp and Sugar Pine area were claimed by the flames, with 100 still under threat. Shelters were set up at the Oakhurst Community Center (39800 Road 425B) and Yosemite Valley Visitor Center (9035 Village Drive), and both remained open to evacuees Wednesday.

Some light showers, alongside lower temperatures throughout the night may have helped slow the fire’s progress, but projected temperatures in the mid to high-90s, and lower humidity, will reportedly remain a challenge for firefighting crews.

For more information on the Railroad Fire, text “Railroadfire” (one word) to 888777, or visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5553/.

A collection of county, state, and federal agencies have joined together to work on controlling the conflagration.

Yosemite National Park was still open beyond the Wawona area, except for Glacier Point Road, which remained closed due to the South Fork and Empire fires.

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