The Ferguson fire continued its march toward Yosemite National Park this weekend, growing significantly to more than 32,000 acres and prompting the closure of some campgrounds and roads.
The fast-spreading fire has been burning in the Sierra Nevada for days, consuming dry brush and dead trees while threatening several mountain communities and more than 200 structures.
Jim Mackensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said firefighters have been aggressively attacking the fire, but steep, rugged terrain with little to no access to roads has made their work difficult.
An area of concern was the northern portion of the fire, where it jumped the Merced River and into the Stanislaus National Forest — the Rim fire broke out there in 2013.
Fire crews tried to keep the flames back, but terrain and weather conditions forced them to retreat, Mackensen said. Despite the challenges, they have made some progress in other parts of the Ferguson fire, including in the Jerseydale area, where firefighters worked to protect structures.
So far, more than 3,000 fire personnel are battling the blaze, and are aided by dozens of water-dropping helicopters, water trucks and dozers.
As the fire moved north over the weekend, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office issued new mandatory evacuation orders for areas along Old Yosemite Road in Groveland.
Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park officials said Highway 140 is closed from the entrance of the park to 1.5 miles west of Midpines. Glacier Point Road, Bridalveil Creek Campground and the Merced Grove have also been closed because of firefighting operations, park officials said.
The fire started July 13 and claimed a firefighter’s life in its first day when a bulldozer tumbled down a hillside during the building of a defensive line. The flames have pushed south and east along a south fork of the Merced River, but along the way they’ve crawled over ridge tops and into groves of dead wood east of Yosemite.
Mackensen said six firefighters have been injured as of Sunday.
Crews have been preparing defensive positions ahead of the fire’s path and have carried out burn operations that would eliminate potential fuel. In the last few days, the flames have reached the groves of dead pines that were victims to California’s brutal drought and massive bark-beetle infestation that have killed tens of millions of trees in recent years.
In those patches of land, crews are watching for fire as well as falling trees and branches.
So far, an evacuation center has been set up at New Life Christian Fellowship and an animal shelter has been set up by the SPCA of Mariposa County.
The battle comes as a heat wave is about to hit Southern California. Los Angeles County officials have issued a warning for next week, when they expect temperatures to soar.
High temperatures are forecast to arrive Monday. The alert covers areas prone to dangerous summertime heat. They include downtown Los Angeles, the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and the Pomona area.
The National Weather Service is forecasting record-breaking highs and has issued a heat advisory until Thursday evening.
Inland temperatures are expected to hover in the 90s for much of the week and will probably hit 100 on Wednesday. Temperatures along the coast will be in the mid-80s.
County officials have asked schools and summer camps to take special precautions, such as limiting outdoor activities to mornings and evenings.