The Ferguson Fire has now consumed close to 95,000 acres near Yosemite National Park, and hazardous smoke conditions have closed Yosemite Valley indefinitely. Nearly half of the fire is now contained, but Yosemite’s most popular tourist destination is not out of the woods yet.
At a press conference on Tuesday, officials with Yosemite, Mariposa County and multiple fire agencies celebrated increased containment, lifted evacuation orders and the opening of some roads near the park.
But Kelly Martin, the park’s Chief of Fire and Aviation Management, says the Ferguson Fire’s northeast corner is still a major concern. It’s spreading through the Merced River Canyon, along steep slopes peppered with bark-beetle-ravaged trees near the communities of Foresta and El Portal. If it stretches much further east, she warns, it could approach the north rim of Yosemite Valley. “So there’s the potential for a very long-term impact to the Yosemite Valley on the rim, but not in the valley itself,” she says.
She says the fire could also encroach upon the Valley’s south rim, if it continues to spread north from Glacier Point Road. “Those are the two things that we are trying very very hard to prevent,” she says. “But it’s very very difficult, very very steep terrain, and that’s why it’s making it very very difficult for fire suppression efforts.”
She says prevention efforts will likely involve more pre-emptive burning as well as taking advantage of fire lines from previous fires.