Wildfire Burning Near Yosemite National Park Doubles in Size

A wildfire burning west of Yosemite National Park doubled in size overnight while crews scrambled to set up defenses around nearby homes, officials said.

Just over 4,300 acres on Sunday, the Ferguson fire exploded overnight and grew to 9,266 acres Monday morning with only 2% of the blaze contained, the U.S. Forest Service reported.

The blaze has closed Highway 140 leading into the park and prompted evacuation orders in Briceburg, Cedar Lodge and Mariposa Pines north of Bear Clover. Crews have been stationed in Jerseydale and Yosemite West to protect homes, the Forest Service said.

Burning in steep, inaccessible terrain in many spots south of Highway 140 in the Merced River Canyon, firefighters are attacking the flames directly where they can but are otherwise focusing on setting up defenses and contingency lines where they plan to make stands against the flames.

To reduce the fire danger, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Sunday switched off power lines serving the area, affecting parts of Yosemite, El Portal and Foresta.

Braden Varney, a bulldozer operator with Cal Fire, died at the scene as crews battled the fire early Saturday, said Cal fire spokesman Scott McLean.

Varney, 36, of Mariposa had served in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit for a decade. He left behind a wife and two young children, according to the agency.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Joseph Serna and Doug Smith