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Yosemite Valley, Wawona closed ‘indefinitely’ as Ferguson Fire approaches 90,000 acres

Yosemite National Park’s history of wildfires

The Ferguson wildfire has forced thousands to evacuate Yosemite, but this isn't the first time a wildfire has ravaged Yosemite.
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The Ferguson wildfire has forced thousands to evacuate Yosemite, but this isn't the first time a wildfire has ravaged Yosemite.

Firefighters struggled to make progress in their efforts to contain the Ferguson Fire over the weekend, as the blaze grew 7,934 acres overnight Saturday and totaled 89,633 as of Sunday, fire officials said.

On Sunday, it was announced Yosemite Valley, Wawona and a number of other locations within the park would be closed indefinitely. Yosemite Valley and Wawona have been closed to visitors since July 25. Containment Sunday afternoon remained at 35 percent.

The fire continued to be active Sunday up to a half-mile within Yosemite National Park, with spotting occurring near Chinquapin. Firefighters have begun to set up contingency lines around the park. The fire on Friday jumped Highway 41 and was heading towards Badger Pass amid the evacuation of Yosemite Valley.

Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat and the Big Oak Flat road entrance of Yosemite National Park remain closed to help facilitate firefighting efforts. The entrance to the park through Highway 41 is closed for the same reason. The only open entrance to the park is through Lee Vining to Crane Flat. Tioga Road from Tioga Pass to White Wolf is open to all visitors and vehicles.

“The problem with Yosemite Valley is that there just isn’t a way to get there. Even if they said it was good to go down there, the road closures make it impossible to get to there,” Mackensen said.

Resources have been limited due to a focus on tactical firing operations on spot fires south of Wawona. Once those spot fires are controlled, more personnel and resources will be made available to focus on other parts of the fire, officials said in a news release.

A concentrated effort is being made to protect structures around the Foresta and Yosemite West areas. Tactical firing operations are being performed from Foresta and Big Oak Flat roads. In the north, containment lines continued to be formed just south of Merced Grove.

Mackensen said the structures in Yosemite West, which have been evacuated, are “real secure.”

The fire has destroyed 10 structures since it began on July 13, and it is still threatening 995 more.

Evacuations were ordered Saturday just east of Coulterville as another fire broke out. Firefighters were able to stop forward progress on the Wagner Fire, which was at 22 acres and 50 percent contained Sunday morning.

Two firefighters have died while fighting the Ferguson Fire, while 11 more have been injured. On Saturday, firefighter Brian Hughes, 33, was honored in Fresno after he was struck and killed by a falling tree while fighting the blaze.

There are 2,792 personnel fighting the Ferguson Fire, including 218 fire engines, 65 water tenders and 14 helicopters.

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