National Park

Crews win over Washburn’s fire; Yosemite will reopen an entrance

Two weeks after the Washburn Fire in Yosemite National Park, firefighters continue to make progress against the blaze that has scorched nearly 5,000 acres.

As of Thursday morning, the wildfire remained at 58% containment and had burned 4,856 acres, officials said. The number of people assigned to firefighting fell to 1,330 from around 1,500 earlier in the week.

The fire continues to burn on its eastern and southern edges near Mount Raymond, officials from California’s Interagency Incident Management Team 13 said during a Thursday morning briefing. The fire continues to burn brush with hard to reach terrain.

“Overall, the incident is in a very good place and we will continue to work on it throughout the day,” said Matt Ahearn, deputy chief of operations for California Interagency Incident Management Team 13. .

Fire officials flew in hot fire crews that spent the night tackling the northeast edge of the blaze, Ahearn said. Helicopters are dropping water on this section of the blaze, which is burning in several brush-laden areas near the South Fork of the Merced River.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Crews began “cleaning up” and sifting through burnt areas with hand tools looking for hot spots, fire officials said in a statement. Crews are looking to both extinguish hot spots and help dissipate residual smoke in those areas.

Efforts are also underway to clear debris and prepare for the opening of Wawona Road, or the section of Highway 41 that runs through Yosemite. Authorities are also allowing residents who live in the small community of Wawona to return home.

Most of Yosemite National Park remains open to the public, and although the fire initially threatened the Mariposa Giant Sequoia Grove, the threat has largely lifted.

Park officials plan to reopen Yosemite’s south entrance along Highway 41 at 6 a.m. Saturday. The town of Wawona and all of its accommodations and services except the gas station will remain closed to visitors for at least one more week, officials added.

As of Thursday morning, air quality monitors continued to be in the “red” category, about 150 points on the air quality index, near Wawona, according to monitoring site PurpleAir. The poor air quality seemed to be isolated to the southern boundary of the national park.

Authorities have also closed part of the Sierra National Forest that borders the southern edge of Yosemite National Park, according to a map released by the US Forest Service. The closure covers approximately 3% of the Sierra National Forest and will be in effect until August 1.