Fire crews gain ground

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat /

Firefighters continued to gain ground today on the El Portal Fire burning in Yosemite National Park, as evacuation orders were set to be lifted in Foresta.

As of this morning, the fire, which has burned 4,198 acres, was 58 percent contained. It grew by 300 acres Thursday.

Fuel on the fire's most active front - the northeast - was removed with controlled burning and hammered from the air with water and retardant Thursday. Meanwhile, crews began mopping up the bottom half of the fire.

The number of personnel assigned to the firefight grew by nearly 400 on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,360.

The cost of firefighting reached $5.7 million. The fire's cause remains under investigation.

A mandatory evacuation order for about 50 homes in the community of Foresta will be lifted at 3 p.m. today, it said.

However, firefighters are still facing steep terrain and generally unfavorable weather conditions, with high temperatures and low humidity.

Fire officials warned that poor air quality due to the smoke could affect children, the elderly, and those with health problems.

Wildfire smoke can shift suddenly, so sensitive groups may consider leaving the area and should consult their doctors, according to air quality officials.

Big Oak Flat Road - granting access to Yosemite Valley from Highway 120 - was reopened Wednesday. Bridalveil Creek, Crane Flat and Yosemite Creek campgrounds remain closed.

Yosemite's smaller Dark Hole fire, near Yosemite Creek Campground, was at 725 acres and 39 percent containment this morning. It's being fought by 86 personnel.

The Union Democrat
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