Reopening date set for Highway 41 route to Yosemite. Ferguson Fire in ‘mop up’ phase

The road into Yosemite National Park from Highway 41 is expected to reopen in the coming week, as containment of the Ferguson Fire nears 90 percent.

U.S. Forest Service officials said Saturday morning that Wawona Road, Highway 41 in the park, will open at 8 a.m. on Aug. 24. The road had been closed from Wawona to the Tunnel View area since evacuations were first ordered in Yosemite Valley on July 25, cutting off the southern access from Oakhurst into the park.

Forest officials say that the wildfire burning in Mariposa County since July 13 is now in a “mop up” and “repair” phase. The agency has not increased its containment numbers but says the last remaining challenge now that the fire has stopped growing in large amounts is that unburned areas tend to ignite when daytime temperatures are extremely hot, but “they are not a threat to containment lines.”

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A National Park Service officer keeps watch over the road closure on Highway 41 at Wawona in Yosemite National Park on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. The road was reoponed Friday, Aug. 25. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

As of Saturday, the Ferguson Fire has burned 96,824 acres, a number that remained the same since Friday’s update. The forest service says the fire suppression repair phase is one of three phases when it comes to addressing wildfire recovery. Fire crews are keeping a close eye on “post-wildfire threats” to people, property and natural lands, according to the forest service.

“Progress has been made, we just haven’t increased containment numbers because we want to make sure the containment line is solid enough that we can definitely say the fire won’t jump it,” Raj Singh, spokesperson for the Ferguson Fire unified command, said previously.

The air quality in communities around Yosemite National Park that had reached hazardous levels has improved and is expected to remain at good to moderate for now.

The forest service said 920 fire personnel are still fighting the Ferguson Fire, which left two firefighters dead in its wake. During the fire’s peak, there were nearly 4,000 personnel assigned to the operation.

The forest service says more work is still needed even after fire crews fully extinguish the fire, including improving fire-damaged lands that likely won’t recover from the fire on their own.

The expected date for full containment of the Ferguson Fire remains Aug. 22 and up until Friday has cost $116 million to fight. There is still no cost available for the 10 buildings that were destroyed by the blaze.

The cause remains under investigation.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez
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