Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Deadly fire shuts down key route to Yosemite National Park

Deadly fire shuts down key route to Yosemite National Park

The body of heavy fire equipment operator Braden Varney, 36, is in a "precarious location" and conditions have been too risky to retrieve it, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said.

Varney's body will be retrieved Monday at the earliest because it's in a "precarious location" and conditions were too unsafe over the weekend, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said.

Investigators were working to determine further circumstances surrounding Varney's death.

The Ferguson Fire, which broke out on Friday night near Savage Trading Post about 32 kilometres southwest of the park's boundary in the Sierra Nevada mountains, had blackened some 36 square kilometres of forest land as of Monday afternoon, according to the Inciweb federal wildfire tracking website.

The Kootenai National Forest reports that at least one helicopter is being used to fight the fire, with no structures threatened at this time.

The Ferguson Fire was 9,266 acres with 2 percent containment Monday morning, the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team said.

Officials said Saturday that Highway 140 was closed from Midpines to El Portal due to the wildfire. The bulldozer ended up at the bottom of a ravine and Koerperich said rescuers were not able to retrieve Varney's body Saturday afternoon.

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Near the OR border, firefighters are continuing to make progress on the Klamathon Fire, which is now 95 percent contained.

A quickly spreading wildfire has led to the closure of one of the main access points into California's Yosemite National Park. Drivers looking to visit Yosemite should take alternative routes, Highway 41 or 120.

Cal Fire said a firefighter died on the line Saturday morning.

"The winds are really erratic, there's just no moisture in the vegetation, it is still so dry regardless of what rains we've had", Maclean said. Varney had been with Cal Fire for a decade.

Nearby Yosemite National Park, a go-to tourist destination for camping and hiking, remains open to visitors, but officials said poor air conditions could force visitors to limit strenuous outdoor activities.

A key route into the park was closed, while a lodge and some nearby rural communities were evacuated.

They said power in Yosemite Valley had also been affected because power lines had been turned off as firefighters work to quell the blaze.

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