Yosemite National Park announced Thursday that the Half Dome cables that have been off-limits since Sunday because of the Meadow fire will reopen for use Saturday.
The trail to Half Dome is expected to be secure by then, but high temperatures and low humidity Thursday were making difficult conditions for hundreds of firefighters working to contain the fire, which continues to grow in the park's popular backcountry.
As of Thursday, containment lines had been established around 50% of the fire, which was estimated at 4,906 acres — about 500 acres larger than reported on Wednesday. The number of people assigned to the fire has also grown, from about 400 firefighters on Wednesday to 570 people battling it Thursday in the Little Yosemite Valley east of Half Dome.
Because the fire is in popular hiking territory in the park's wilderness area, fire crews are trying to use strategies to minimize the effect of their work on the environment, including deploying firefighters in wilderness camps to reduce helicopter flights into the area. Nine helicopters are still assigned to the fire, however, to make water drops to support crews on the ground.
Fire commanders said their priorities are to cut containment lines and secure the western flank of the fire to allow for the Half Dome trail to be reopened. They are also working to protect several of the park's high Sierra camps.
The weather in Yosemite and intense heat within the fire area mean that firefighters are on the lookout for new spot fires to pop up outside the fire's current perimeter and enable the fire to grow on its eastern edges.