A heat wave will bring triple-digit temperatures to the Sonora area this week, and a wildfire that broke out Friday outside Yosemite National Park and claimed the life of a Mariposa bulldozer operator was estimated to be just 2 percent contained as of Monday afternoon.
Workers with Cal Fire and California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 5, based in Los Angeles and Orange counties, have recovered the remains of Heavy Fire Equipment Operator Braden Varney from an accident site in the 9,200-acre Ferguson Fire burn, Cal Fire staff announced Monday afternoon.
An escort route was released for a procession that started at 3 p.m. Monday at Highway 49 and Darrah Road in Bootjack, east of Mariposa, to the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office in Modesto.
The current warm spell is expected to bring temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees through Friday for places like Angels Camp, Jamestown and Chinese Camp. A heat advisory is in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday for an area that includes Sonora.
Prolonged outdoor exposure to triple-digit temperatures may increase chances for heat-related illnesses for sensitive groups such as children and seniors.
In the Ferguson Fire burn zone south of Highway 140 and west of El Portal, high temperatures were expected from 102 to 103 Monday through Friday.
Firefighters working on the Ferguson Fire have trained to wear and carry up to 45 pounds of extra gear, said Adrienne Freeman, a Ferguson Fire public information officer and Yosemite National Park employee, speaking from the Mariposa Fairgrounds in Mariposa.
“It’s hot, it’s very dry, we’ve had a lot of smoke settling in,” Freeman said before 1:30 p.m. Monday. “This is very steep, vegetated terrain. It’s an area impacted by bug kill as well, with ridgetops with heavy timber impacted by bug kill.”
No other firefighter injuries have been reported since Varney, a Cal Fire heavy equipment operator, died Saturday in the Ferguson Fire, Freeman said.
Varney, 36, was with the Cal Fire Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit. Staff with the Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit said Varney is survived by his wife, Jessica, his 5-year-old daughter, Malhea, and his 3-year-old son, Nolan. He worked for 10 years for Cal Fire, and he was a second-generation Cal Fire employee.
The Ferguson Fire broke out Friday night west of El Portal on Highway 140, south of the Merced River in Merced River Canyon. Highway 140 is one of three westside Sierra roads into and out of Yosemite National Park.
As of Monday afternoon, the fire was mapped at 9,266 acres and it was 2 percent contained.
On Monday morning, mandatory evacuations remained in effect for Clearing House, Mariposa Pines, Cedar Lodge/Savage’s Trading Post and Sweetwater Ridge. Yosemite West, all of Jerseydale Road to Scott Road and Scott Road to Bear Clover should be prepared to evacuate if conditions change.
Highway 140 north of Mariposa remained closed due to firefighting activities and an ongoing investigation into the fire’s cause.