Stanislaus National Forest officials are monitoring the behavior of a 500-acre wildfire near Donnell Reservoir in Tuolumne County and said as of Friday afternoon the Highway 108 corridor south of the fire was not threatened.
Diana Fredlund, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said the blaze was exhibiting “active fire behavior,” but she was not sure if the blaze would continue to consume the surrounding rugged wilderness or diminish in the coming days.
Aerial reconnaissance crews were still evaluating the fire to determine the pattern of growth, she said, and on Friday afternoon containment remained at zero percent.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the fire broke out at 5:49 p.m. on Wednesday, and spread to about 300 acres of Stanislaus National Forest land by Thursday. The fire is burning through a remote area north of the Middle Fork Stanislaus River near the inlet to Donnell Reservoir and near Dome Rock in Summit Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest. Fredlund said the fire was not yet in Alpine County and was burning to the northeast toward the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
“It’s across the river so its not directly at Highway 108,” she said. “Donnell Vista is a location where you can see the fire quite clearly. We don't necessarily want the public out there to go look at the fire but people are there to talk to them.”
The Donnell Vista lookout point was still open to the public and not threatened at this time, she said. Firefighters at the site were working to ensure that the blaze stated north of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River and east of Dome Rock, she said.
“Five-hundred acres, that's pretty good size and it’s burning to the northeast. It’s burning in that direction but it looks like it has a little bit of distance before it gets to Alpine County,” she said. “They are aware of it so I would say that's a concern.”
Fredlund said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.
“We probably won't have that for a while,” she said, but noted investigators were scheduled to visit the area.
Fredlund said she had not received any information indicating that the fire as a result of human activity or a campfire.
“It's possible that that's the case but until we get it from the investigators that go out I won't have anything official, but it's possible,” she said.
The fire was burning through tall brush, timber litter and understory, Fredlund said, and dry and high-temperature conditions expected in the coming days meant controlling the fire may be difficult.
Fire crews do not have an objective date for expected containment, she added. Aerial reconnaissance of the site had been made difficult by the smoky conditions which have largely kept helicopter crews out of the skies.
“if the smoke is too thick, they can't fly. They're grounded,” she said. “It’s a still a little soon for that.”
Fredlund said she was not sure if air tankers were attached to the Donnell Fire at this time. Two helicopter crews conducted bucket drops on the fire on Thursday, she said.
As of Friday afternoon, the Stanislaus Hotshots and El Cariso Hotshots (from the Cleveland National Forest) were firefighting at the scene. Resources included two fire engines, and 93 total personnel were assigned to the fire, Fredlund said.
Thirty structures were threatened and included homes within Wagner Tract in the Dardanelle area, and homes in the Camp Liahona Clarks Fork and Clarks Fork area of the Stanislaus National Forest.
Fredlund said some of the buildings may be barns or outbuildings and said infrastructure at the Donnell Reservoir was not threatened. Donnell Reservoir, located about 10 miles north of Pinecrest Reservoir, is the uppermost of three reservoirs owned and operated along the Stanislaus River as part of the of the Tri-Dam Project, a partnership between Oakdale Irrigation District and South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
An evacuation advisory by the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office for the Wagner Tract, Camp Liahona Clarks Fork and Clarks Fork areas remain in effect as of Friday afternoon.
Fredlund added that the location may not have been a spot where the Stanislaus National Forest would have conducted a prescribed burn. There was no evaluation of the area within the “specific parameters” of humidity, temperature and wind patterns, she said, before the start of the fire.
Meanwhile, on Friday an evacuation order was issued for employees and residents in the Yosemite Valley due to the frequency and amount of fire workers using the roadways as they fought the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County.
The Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, Bridalveil Creek Campground, Tamarack Campground, Wawona Campground, and the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoia within Yosemite National Park will remain closed through Sunday.
The Yosemite Valley has been closed since July 25. The fire started July 13.
Road access on El Portal Road, Wawona Road, and Big Oak Flat Road inside the park between the Big Oak Flat entrance and Crane Flat Junction and from Crane Flat Junction to Yosemite Valley remain closed through Sunday, but may be extended.
A Yosemite National Forest press release noted firefighters were working along El Portal Road, Big Oak Flat Road and Wawona road, causing hazards in the area.
The Ferguson Fire on Friday afternoon was 73,560 Acres and is 41 percent contained.
Yosemite National Park remains open via Highway 395 to Highway 120 on the east side of the park, and Tioga Road is open from Tioga Pass to Crane Flat. The Tuolumne Meadows Campground, the Tuolumne Meadows Store, and the High Sierra Camps remain open.