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Winds, Embers Pose Problem With Ferguson Fire

UPDATE: 6:00 PM 7/27/18

Yosemite Valley is going to remain closed for a little longer than initially planned due to the Ferguson Fire. The Park Service announced today that the valley will reopen on Friday August 3rd at 4:00 PM. The Wawona community and Mariposa Grove will remain closed due to smoke and impacts from the fire. Highway 41 will also remain closed. It’s unknown when they will reopen. The popular park attractions closed earlier this week due to the fire. The closures had been set to expire this Sunday.


The Ferguson Fire has now consumed around 46,000 acres and is 29 percent contained. Operations section chief Jake Cagle says shifting winds at night have been a problem on the fire’s southeast flank.

“What happens at night for us is, and this is the struggle, all day we have winds coming out of the southwest, which is very beneficial of this area, but at night we get wind that slops out of the north. What that does is that throws showers of embers," says Cagle.

Crews are positioned to combat the threat, with the hope to prevent the fire spotting out ahead of the main fire line. Visibility is also a problem.

“But also with that shower of embers there’s also a lot of smoke and it’s hard for us to see and identify this," says Cagle.


UPDATE 9:00 AM 7/27/18
The Ferguson Fire has now grown to around 45,000 acres and is 29 percent contained. 

UPDATE 4:00 PM 7/26/18

The Ferguson Fire burning near Yosemite National Park has now consumed over 43,000 acres and is 27 percent contained. The blaze is currently threatening over 5,200 structures in Mariposa and Stanislaus counties.

Firefighter spokesman Jake Cagle says crews are working today setting backfires to protect structures to the west of the park, including at El Portal.

“We have structure specialists up in the El Portal area, Foresta as well as Yosemite West. We are evaluating the structures and we have hose around that area to ensure we have protection if any firing activities go around or outside of our line," says Cagle.

Fire officials also say crews completed containment lines around the community of Wawona along the fire’s east side. On the north and the west, firefighters are using old firelines and the burn scar areas from other recent wildfires to try to contain the blaze. The mandatory evacuations issued Wednesday for Lush Meadows and Ponderosa Basin remain in effect, and Yosemite Valley is expected to be closed through Sunday.

Original post:
The Ferguson Fire jumped containment lines early Wednesday morning on the south flank of the blaze, leading to new mandatory evacuations in Lush Meadows and Ponderosa Basin. The evacuations came within hours of the planned closure of Yosemite Valley and Wawona in Yosemite National Park due to smoke and other fire concerns.

As of Thursday morning, the fire had consumed over 43,000 acres and is 27 percent contained. The blaze is currently threatening over 5,200 structures in Mariposa and Stanislaus counties.

Jake Cagle is the operations section chief for firefighting operations. He says the early morning flare up led to the new mandatory evacuations in the Ponderosa Basin and Darrah area.

“At one o’clock this morning [Wednesday] we had a spot fire and we had multiple spot fires due to a weather change.”

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson says about 3,200 people in those areas had to leave their homes Wednesday morning. The Red Cross has opened new evacuation centers in Mariposa and Oakhurst to help those forced out of their homes.

Lush Meadows resident Lars Sulmanz says he got the evacuation notice Wednesday morning on his phone, first fleeing to an evacuation center in Bootjack, and then to the shelter in Mariposa with his mom, dad, brother, and four pets.

“I didn’t feel surprised. I already saw yesterday big smoke coming out of Jersydale and it already looked really scary yesterday night. My family and I were already speculating on why it was there, so I thought it was going to get worse.”

Credit Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio
Harald and Lars Sulmanz of Lush Meadows and their dog found shelter at an evacuation center in Mariposa

Harald Sulzman says they’ve faced evacuations before, and it’s part of life when living in the mountains. “You’re living in a vacation area, and it’s the one price you have to pay. That’s life,” says Sulzman.

Ponderosa Basin resident Charlotte Wilson says her family has been on pins and needles all week watching the fire grow closer to their home.  But this morning’s evacuation still came as a surprise, because crews had been making progress battling the blaze.

“We thought things were settling down, and then I get a call at barely four or five in the morning telling us that a neighboring area is being evacuated. But I was told not to worry about it by my husband and my mother-in-law because it’s so many miles away. I had just made breakfast for my folks, and I was just getting ready to sit down, and all of a sudden my mother-in-law runs in and someone from the county tells us there had been a mandatory evacuation.”

She spent the rest of the day at the Mariposa shelter, helping other evacuees.

 While the fire’s southern flank proved to be a concern, a little further north, officials announced plans to repopulate the community of Jersydale, Mariposa Pines and Sweetwater Ridge Roads. While the mandatory evacuation has been lifted, only residents are allowed in the area for now.


Fire officials also say crews completed containment lines around the community of Wawona along the fire’s east side. They also expanded the width of the containment line protecting the community of El Portal to more than 500 feet in some areas.