State of emergency declared as Ferguson Fire forces closures in Yosemite National Park

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
July 27, 2018, 1:05:35 AM EDT

As the Ferguson Fire expands toward Yosemite National Park, unrelenting heat and poor air quality will continue to pose challenges into the weekend.

Since igniting on Friday, July 13, the blaze has consumed 44,223 acres in California’s Sierra and Stanislaus national forests, with over 3,800 personnel working to contain the wildfire. During Wednesday morning, local time, mandatory evacuation orders were given for the Lushmeadows area.

Cal Fire Heavy Fire Equipment Operator Braden Varney was killed on July 14 while working on the fire.

Seven other firefighters have been injured, according to Cal Fire.

On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Mariposa County due to the Ferguson Fire.

Ferguson Fire procession

Charles Phillips waits for a procession carrying the body of firefighter Braden Varney on Monday, July 16, 2018, in Mariposa, Calif. Varney died while battling the Ferguson fire when his bulldozer overturned. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A nearly 2-mile stretch of California State Route 140 remains closed from east of Midpines to the Cedar Lodge area.

“Much of the fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain with little to no access roads,” according to the Inciweb report.

CA Fire AP

A fire transport drives along Highway 140, one of the entrances to Yosemite National Park, on Monday, July 16, 2018, in Mariposa, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

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On Tuesday, officials announced that large sections of Yosemite National Park would be closed starting at noon on Wednesday due mainly to smoke from the Ferguson Fire. This includes Highway 41, the Yosemite Valley and Wawona.

People staying in the park were asked to leave by Wednesday morning.

Pictures from the Yosemite Conservancy show the pictures of Half Dome nearly obscured from thick smoke.

The smokey haze, which has contributed to unhealthy air quality levels in the region, is likely to continue into the weekend as the air remains stagnant.

Anyone outdoors in the region will be risking both their short- and long-term health, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist and air quality blogger Faith Eherts.

“Even those with no pre-existing health conditions who are not exerting themselves can experience difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, a sore throat and even nausea from breathing in the thick smoke,” she added.

Yosemite smoke

Smoke from the nearby Ferguson Fire shrouds the sky at Yosemite National Park. (Twitter/Yosemite National Park)

Outside of the Ferguson Fire, dozens of other large blazes are charring hundreds of thousands of acres across the Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Most of the fires are burning in Oregon.

The blazes in California and across the balance of the West have been fueled by intense heat and extremely dry brush, shrubs and trees that have become a tinderbox amid ongoing drought conditions.

Dangerous heat will continue to sizzle the West through Friday, with only a slight decrease through the weekend, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist and western United States blogger Jordan Root.

Weekend outlook 7.27 AM

The intense heat—ranging from the 110s F in the deserts to the 100s in California’s Central Valley and 90s elsewhere away from the coast and mountains—will make it vital for fire crews working to contain the blazes to take necessary precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses.

On Thursday, Fresno, California, recorded its 21st consecutive day of 100-degree temperatures, which tied the record of such days originally set in 2005.

Highs in the 100s are forecast to persist in Fresno into at least early next week.

California Wildfires

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

The hot and largely dry weather will further enhance the risk of new blazes into the beginning of August.

Colorado and New Mexico are likely to be the exceptions in the West, where frequent bouts of heavy to locally severe thunderstorms into the weekend will help to alleviate drought and wildfire conditions, but also enhance the risk of flash flooding.

ferguson fire at night

The Ferguson Fire burning at night near Yosemite National Park. (Image/Instagram/sergey_a_gavrilov)

glacier point

Smoke from the Ferguson Fire as seen from Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park. (Photo/Instagram/kenja_ninja)

yosemite valley smoke

A smoky view of Yosemite Valley on July 18 due to smoke from the Ferguson Fire. (Photo/Instagram/julieciomperlik)

yosemite smoke haze

A hazy view of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. (Photo/Instagram/jkindtome)

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