July 16 (UPI) — A deadly wildfire burning along the western edge of California’s Yosemite National Park more than doubled in size Monday, hampering what is normally a busy tourist season for the area.
The Ferguson Fire was 9,266 acres with 2 percent containment Monday morning, the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team said. About 500 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blaze, which sparked Friday.
On Saturday, Braden Varney, 36, a heavy equipment operator with CalFire, died on site after a bulldozer rolled while he was battling the blaze.
Officials ordered evacuations for part of the park, including Cedar Lodge/Savage’s Trading Post, Sweetwater Ridge, Clearing House and Mariposa Pines. They’ve issued evacuation warnings for other nearby areas and shut down a section of Highway 140.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
The interagency team said smoke will likely be heavy around the Merced River Corridor overnight into Tuesday. Hot, dry weather was expected for the next week, worsening conditions there and throughout California, which is dotted with several wildfires.
“Visitors who are sensitive to smoke should plan to limit any strenuous outdoor activities or plan to visit the park another time,” the Yosemite National Park said on Twitter.
The Georges Fire is burning west of the Ferguson Fire, consuming 2,883 acres at 42 percent containment as of Saturday. The blaze started July 8 from a lightning strike west of the Manzanar National Historic Site.
The SoCal Incident Management Team evacuated the Whitney Portal area.
Near Los Angeles, the Valley Fire burned 1,348 acres at 29 percent containment as of midday Monday. The fire started July 6 and its cause was under investigation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture closed a portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness due to the blaze.
Because the fire has consumed the vegetation of the steep terrain area, officials warned of an increase in landslides during future rains.