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El Portal Fire Update: Big Oak Flat Road In Yosemite National Park Reopens

  Al Golub / AP
 

Al Golub / AP

10 P.M. Authorities have reopened the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) entrance  in Yosemite National Park.

The National Park Service says the road and the entrance were re-opened last night. All park entrances are open.

Only one road is closed - the Foresta community access road - and residents in that area are under an evacuation notice. Several campgrounds are closed there as well.

The fire has burned 3,900 acres and is 34 percent contained.

Nearly 1,000 fire fighters are battling the fire. 

Officials released the following statement late Wednesday:

The Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) in Yosemite National Park has been reopened to vehicular traffic on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  The road was temporarily closed due to fire activity related to the El Portal Fire.  All other roads within the park, including the Tioga Road, are open and clear, with the exception of the Foresta community access road, which remains closed at this time.  Crane Flat, Yosemite Creek, and Bridalveil Creek Campgrounds remain closed.  All other park campgrounds remain open.

The El Portal Fire started on the afternoon Saturday, July 26, above the community of El Portal.  The fire is currently at 3,900 acres, and is 34% contained.  The fire is being managed by a Type I Incident Management Team, in conjunction with Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. 

Smoke is visible throughout the park and visibility fluctuates throughout the day.  Park visitors are urged to use caution while driving in the park due to decreased visibility.  The park is constantly monitoring the air quality within Yosemite National Park. 

Road closures within the park may change at any time.  Visitors seeking updated information regarding road conditions should call 209-372-0200.

-Capital Public Radio Staff


3 P.M. Crews are working to keep a wildfire in Yosemite National Park away from the Merced Grove, which is one of three stands of giant Sequoias in the Park.

Park spokeswoman Ashley Mayer said Wednesday the El Portal Fire is about 10 miles away from the grove and poses no imminent threat.

"We are building in contingency plans to protect the Merced Grove,” said Mayer. The grove is very important to the Park and to firefighters to make sure that that grove is protected."

The trees grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on Earth.

Mayer said the fire has burned 3,545 acres and is 34 percent contained. She said nearly 900 firefighters are working in difficult conditions.

"We're dealing with very steep terrain in fighting this fire,” said Mayer. “Weather also presents some challenges it is very hot here. We're also in the third consecutive year of drought in the Park, and so we've got some very dry fuel."

Mayer says the community of Foresta is under mandatory evacuation orders but previous evacuation orders for El Portal have been canceled. 

She said fire activity Wednesday forced the closure of a major access route between State Highway 120 and Yosemite Valley, from the Big Oak Flat Road entrance station to the El Portal Road junction.

Alternate driving directions to Yosemite Valley in light of the El Portal Fire

0730 El Portal Closures

Mayer said communities like Groveland, off Highway 120, on the western side of the fire area, are most affected by the road closure.

"A lot of businesses are dependent on tourism into the park but the road has to be closed from the Entrance Station in order to give the access that's needed to fight this fire as it's progressing,” said Mayer. “Unfortunately there will be an economic impact to those communities I'm sure."

Mayer said other Yosemite Park entrances are open, including Highway 140, Highway 41 and Tioga Road, and the fire only affects a small portion of the Park. She added that the air quality in Yosemite Valley was quite good Wednesday, allowing clear views. 


7 A.M. Fire crews are gaining ground on a wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park.

Authorities have lifted evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite National Park.

The El Portal fire has burned about 3,545 acres and is 34 percent contained.  The park is open.

Updates


Current as of 7/30/2014 7:46:13 AM

Incident Type: Wildfire
Cause: Unknown
Date of Origin: Saturday July 26th, 2014 approx. 03:15 PM
Location: Communities of El Portal, Foresta in Yosemite Park and Stanislaus National Forest Incident Commander: Carlton Joesph

Current Situation

Total Personnel: 864
Size: 3,545 Acres
Percent of Perimeter Contained: 34%
Percent of Perimeter To Be Contained: 66%
Fuels Involved: Chaparral (6 feet) Brush, Chaparral, grass, Oak, Woodland at lower elevations. Timber (Pine, Cedar) at elevations above 4500 feet.

Significant Events: Active burning until 0200 in the Northwest areas of the fire with single and group tree torching with short range spotting. Continued closure of Big Oak Flat Road-a major access route to the Yosemite Valley.

Outlook

Planned Actions: Continued mop-up and mitigation of hazards in the community of Foresta. Hold and improve completed containment lines. Construct hand and dozer lines in the northern portion of the fire. Prepare existing roads for potential firing operations.

Projected Incident Activity: Fire spread predominately to the North and Northeast. Potential spread west into Moss Canyon.

Remarks

Extremely steep and remote terrain required heavy dependence on Type 1 Hand Crews and aviation assets. Potential threat to community of Foresta still exists with evacuations continuing to allow mop up and hazard mitigation. The Big Oak Flat Road between State Highway 120 and Yosemite Valley is closed during peak visitor season creating a major impact to the local economy of the Gateway communities of Yosemite National Park and limits visitor access to the Park itself. Fire suppression Repair Plans are being developed.

Current Weather

Weather Concerns: Poor overnight humidity recovery to around 30%


Firefighters working to put out the Sand Fire in Eldorado and Amador counties east of Sacramento have been redeployed to other areas.  That fire has charred 4,240 acres and is 90 percent contained.  All evacuation orders have been lifted, and all roads are open. 

-Capital Public Radio Staff

 wildfireYosemite National ParkEl Portal Fire