Cal Fire reports firefighter fatality in Sierra forest fire

Clay Curtis
July 19, 2018

A deadly wildfire near Yosemite National Park shrouded the popular destination in smoke and left some tourist-dependent businesses hurting Monday, but visitors still braved trails, campgrounds, lodges and restaurants in the California park, officials said.

Varney is the 10th United States wildland firefighter killed in the line of duty this year, according to National Interagency Fire Center data.

Cal Fire reports the Ferguson Fire started at approximately 10:35 p.m. Friday near El Portal in Mariposa County.

Bigger and more "explosive" wildfires are raging across the U.S. West, with the area burned in Colorado already four times the size of last year's total, as rising temperatures, drought and a buildup of forest fuels supercharge blazes. It shut down a key route into the park and prompted mandatory evacuations for Yosemite Cedar Lodge, which is outside the park, and nearby communities.

He was part of the Cal Fire unit that was assisting Sierra National Forest crews, Cal Fire Unit Chief Nancy Koerperich said.

On Friday night, a bulldozer accident claimed the life of firefighter and Mariposa native Braden Varney.

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Cal Fire, the USFS and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department have created a joint command.

"This certainly is going to be devastating to his family and those of us who call him family here with Cal Fire", she said. Thunderstorms in the area and wind have also given firefighters unfavorable conditions to work in, Seymour added.

Forest officials said they're moving resources from the Silver Creek Fire down to Tiller to make an aggressive push to keep the fires contained.

Evacuation advisories are in place for the Jerseydale area and Yosemite West area.

Power in Yosemite Valley was affected when lines were turned off while firefighters worked to quell the blaze.

The Ferguson Fire is just one of several fires now burning across the state, which has faced years of devastating wildfires resulting in deaths and causing billions of dollars in damage.

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