Deadly Ferguson Fire burns over 30,000 acres, expands closer to Yosemite National Park in California

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
July 22, 2018, 10:13:21 AM EDT

More than 2,900 emergency personnel are still working to contain the massive wildfire near California’s Yosemite National Park that took a deadly turn after igniting last weekend.

The Ferguson Fire has exploded to 30,493 acres since it began on the evening of July 13 in Mariposa County. It is only 6 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Cal Fire, the United States Forest Service and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office are collaborating in order to tackle the blaze.

Cal Fire Heavy Fire Equipment Operator Braden Varney was killed on July 14 in the Sierra National Forest while working the wildfire, according to Cal Fire officials.

Four other firefighters have been injured while battling the blaze, according to SFGate.

Ferguson Fire - AP Photo

The Ferguson Fire burns along a ridgeline in unincorporated Mariposa County, California, on Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Varney lost his life when his bulldozer rolled over, CNN reported. Officials recovered his body on July 16.

A mandatory evacuation order is in place for areas near the wildfire, including the El Portal Trailer Court, Foresta, Rancheria Flat and Yosemite View Lodge. Emergency authorities have urged residents to leave the area quickly and cautiously. More than 200 structures are under threat, but as of Sunday morning, no structures have been damaged nor destroyed.

Additional evacuations were ordered for Yosemite West on Saturday just one day after the fire jumped the Merced River. The fire is slowly burning north toward Yosemite National Park.

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The vegetation fire continues to impact homes and businesses in the State Route 140 corridor as the fire spreads south and east toward Jerseydale, Mariposa Pines and Yosemite West, according to officials. Highway 140 is closed from the entrance of Yosemite National Park to west of Midpines.

Firefighters will have to contend with scorching daytime heat while battling the blaze. Hot weather will continue in the area for the foreseeable future, with daytime highs in the 90s.

Smoke from the fire is leading to poor air quality and visibility in the area, including in parts of Yosemite National Park.

"The addition of a little monsoon moisture from the southeast this week will bring the chance of an afternoon thunderstorm," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said. "However, whatever occurs will be very scattered and more likely at a higher elevation than the fire."

"Winds, except those generated by the fire itself [or nearby thunderstorms], will not be a major factor," he added.

The deadly blaze and a closed stretch of State Route 140 hasn’t stopped some tourists from braving the smoke and hiking in Yosemite National Park, which remains open.

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