The Ferguson Fire, which began on July 13th and has since grown to nearly 90,000 acres in Mariposa County, has officially entered Yosemite National Park and jumped Highway 41 near the junction with Glacier Point Road.
The fire has now killed 2 people, injured 11, and destroyed 10 structures. On Sunday, firefighter Brian Hughes, 33, was killed when a tree fell on him. He will be remembered at a memoral service in Fresno on Saturday.
With erratic wind patterns hitting the area this past weekend, the fire exploded in size, growing over 10,000 acres since Friday and dropping from 41 percent containment to 35 percent. Amid extremely smoky conditions, areas of Yosemite National Park remain closed and there is no current timeline for reopening.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Air Now” website on Friday recorded the Air Quality Index in Yosemite at a staggering 386, or “hazardous.”
“In talking to people, no one has ever seen the smoke this heavy,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Los Angeles Times.
California burning. These fires are frightening to watch, even from space. Here’s a shout-out from space to all firefighters on this planet, my former colleagues. Stay safe my friends! pic.twitter.com/y7PNmR006b
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) August 3, 2018
On Friday, evacuations were ordered due to “multiple hazards” along several roads in addition to power outages in Yosemite Valley. Most visitors had already left the area but many of the park rangers had stayed. With the most of the lodging opened up by the evacuations, local hotels have been housing firefighters instead.
Last week, two popular camps for Bay Area youth were forced to evacuate Tuesday due to air quality. Camp Tawonga, a popular Jewish camp for Bay Area and out-of-state children, evacuated after less than two days at their site, while Camp Mather, another popular campground for families, also decided to close until conditions calm down.
The current closures create a tough situation for the popular National Park, who have recently received budget cuts and rely on the revenue of the visitors during the popular summer months to provide yearly resources for the park.
The smoke was intensified when CalFire began using backburning tactics on the western ridge, which allows firefighters to create their own containment lines near the fire. This is now the longest closure at Yosemite since 1997 when floods closed the park for over two months.