Washburn fire reaches 58% containment; Yosemite National Park plans to reopen southern entrance

A sequoia tree's trunk is partially charred.
A sequoia tree damaged by the Washburn fire at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. The threat to the grove has largely ended, officials said.
(Stephen Lam / San Francisco Chronicle)

Two weeks after the Washburn fire ignited in Yosemite National Park, firefighters continue to make progress against the blaze that has scorched nearly 5,000 acres.

As of Thursday morning, the wildfire remained at 58% containment and had burned 4,856 acres, officials said. The number of personnel assigned to fight the blaze has dropped to 1,330, down from about 1,500 earlier in the week.

The fire continues to burn on its eastern and southern edge near Mt. Raymond, officials from California’s Interagency Incident Management Team 13 said in a briefing Thursday morning. Fire continues to scorch brush patches with terrain that is difficult to access.


“Overall the incident is in a very good place and we’ll continue working it throughout the day,” said Matt Ahearn, deputy operations chief with California’s Interagency Incident Management Team 13.

Fire officials have been flying in hot shot crews who have stayed overnight to tackle the fire’s northeastern edge, Ahearn said. Helicopters are dropping water on that section of the fire, which is burning in several brush-laden areas near the South Fork of the Merced River.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Crews have begun to “mop up” and sift through the burned areas with hand tools in search of hot spots, fire officials said in a statement. Crews are looking to both put out the hot spots and help dissipate residual smoke in those areas.

Efforts are also underway to clear debris and prepare for the opening of Wawona Road, or the section of Highway 41 that runs through Yosemite. Officials are also allowing residents who live in the small community of Wawona to return to their homes.

Most of Yosemite National Park remains open to the public, and although the fire initially threatened the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the threat has largely lifted.

Park officials plan to reopen the southern entrance to Yosemite along Highway 41 at 6 a.m. Saturday. The town of Wawona and all its lodging and services except for the gas station will remain closed to visitors for at least one more week, officials added.

On Thursday morning, air quality monitors continued to be in the “red” category, or about 150 points on the air quality index, near Wawona, according to monitoring site PurpleAir. Poor air quality appeared to be isolated to the southern edge of the national park.


Officials have also closed a portion of the Sierra National Forest that borders the southern edge of Yosemite National Park, according to a map released by the U.S. Forest Service. The closure spans about 3% of the Sierra National Forest and will be in effect through Aug. 1.