Deadly Yosemite Wildfire, Fueled by Sweltering Conditions, Doubles In Size Overnight


5:19am Updated

Officials say Heavy Fire Equipment Operator Braden Varney was killed Saturday morning while battling the Ferguson Fire.

Fire officials say Varney is survived by his wife and two small children.

The Ferguson fire, which started about 10:30 p.m. Friday near El Portal in Mariposa County, had burned 150 acres and was 5% contained as of Saturday afternoon, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Managers from the Sierra National Forest say the steep terrain and heavy smoke have made it hard to map the fire.

INITIAL REPORT: The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) says that the Green Top Mountain Fire 5 miles northeast of Eagle Point is now burning at approximately 30 acres.

A fire transport drives along Highway 140, one of the entrances to Yosemite National Park, in Mariposa, Calif., July 16, 2018.

Near the OR border, firefighters are continuing to make progress on the Klamathon Fire, which is now 95 percent contained. An evacuation advisory is in effect for Cedar Lodge and Yosemite West. Highway 140 is closed from Cedar Lodge to the top of Briceburg Grade and Incline Road is closed from Briceburg Bridge to the last BLM campground. Cal Fire says he was clearing fire lines when the accident happened. A stretch of State Route 140 into Yosemite was closed, and motorists were urged to find alternate routes.

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The Ferguson fire in Mariposa County broke out Friday and is burning largely out of control.

About 50 firefighters continue to work as part of suppression crews to keep the fire from spreading.

The wildfire that killed Varney is one of several burning across the state and among 56 large blazes that are active in the US, most in the American West, a region struggling with drought and heat.

Cal Fire, the USFS and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department have created a joint command.

While the park and several of its nearby accommodations, including Yosemite View Lodge and Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort remain open, park representatives are warning that anyone sensitive to smoke avoid engaging in strenuous outdoor activities.

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