The Rough fire has reached Lewis Creek in the Monarch Wilderness and is expected to move east as thousands of firefighters and air crews continue working to contain the flames.
The fire grew to around 77,287 acres as of Monday evening and is 25 percent contained. It is now the largest fire burning in California. More than 2,000 people are fighting the blaze, which was started by a lightning strike on July 31 in Kings Canyon.
Air operations were limited on the south side of the fire over the weekend because of smoke, but crews were able to get into the air on the north side, said George Apple, U.S. Forest Service public information officer.
As of Monday morning, the cost for fighting the fire increased to $49.3 million.
To date, airplanes have flown in 1,158,961 gallons of retardant and helicopters have dropped 209,000 gallons to divert the fire or to protect forest areas from the flames. Another 3 million gallons of water picked up from surrounding lakes like Hume, Montecito and Pine Flat Reservoir have been used to drop on the head of the blaze and to saturate the ground, Apple said.
The Forest Service is now using teams of pack string mules on the north side of the fire to support crews. Two packers are leading five mules each into the wilderness with 150 pounds of gear to restock the crews and haul out refuse and other items, the Forest Service said.
Heavy smoke remains near the fire and was expected to settle into Kings Canyon and low-lying areas such as Hume Lake and Cedar Grove on Monday evening, with air conditions unhealthy to very unhealthy.
Cedar Grove and Highway 180 from General Grant Tree remains closed. Hume Lake is closed to the public, but open to residents and workers.
The Forest Service is asking people who plan to visit during Labor Day weekend to drive with caution because of heavy equipment moving around the area.
All campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park are closed. The visitors center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The General Grant Tree, Panoramic Point, park trails, John Muir Lodge, Grant Grove cabins, restaurant, market and gift shop are open.
Stony Creek, Upper Stony Creek, Fir and Cove Group campgrounds are open as well as Stony Creek Village Resort and Montecito Sequoia Lodge. Recreation sites, however, may close over the holiday weekend depending on conditions.