Two fires in Yosemite; one threatens structures

(UPDATED at 8:50 a.m. PDT, July 31, 2014)

Map of the El Portal and Dark Hole Fires
Map of the El Portal and Dark Hole Fires, 11:45 p.m., July 30, 2014 (click to enlarge)

The map above shows the perimeters, in red, of the El Portal and Dark Hole Fires in Yosemite National Park. The blue line was the perimeter of the El Portal fire about 48 hours earlier. The 2013 Rim Fire can be seen north of those two fires.

The El Portal Fire added another 300 acres on Wednesday when it ran for over half a mile in the Crane Creek area, bringing the total to 4,200 acres.

There was rain on the Dark Hole fire on Wednesday, allowing only an additional 11 acres of growth.

Approximately 1,063 personnel are assigned to the fire.

As of Wednesday night, the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) in Yosemite National Park has been reopened to vehicular traffic. The road was temporarily closed due to fire activity related to the El Portal Fire. All other roads within the park, including the Tioga Road, are open and clear, with the exception of the Foresta community access road, which remains closed. Crane Flat, Yosemite Creek, and Bridalveil Creek Campgrounds remain closed. All other park campgrounds are open.

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(UPDATED at 7:10 a.m. PDT, July 30, 2014)

The El Portal Fire outside the entrance to Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park has burned about 3,545 acres and the incident management team is calling it 34 percent contained. Over the last 24 hours the fire was very active on the north side.

Big Oak Flat Road is still closed and the community of Foresta remains under an evacuation notice. The fire is threatening the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias in the park.

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(UPDATED at 11 a.m. PDT, July 29, 2014)

Map of the El Portal and Dark Hole Fires
Map of the El Portal and Dark Hole Fires, 10:30 p.m., July 28, 2014. Yosemite NP is on the right or east side of the green line.

Above is an updated map of the El Portal and Dark Hole Fires in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. California Incident Management Team #5 assumed command of the fire on July 27 but does not have a current update on InciWeb.

El Portal Fire

The El Portal Fire has burned 3,060 acres and the incident management team is calling it 19 percent contained. Resources assigned include 640 personnel and 7 helicopters. One structure burned in the community of Foresta; others are still threatened.

Dark Hole Fire

This 580-acre fire  4.5 miles north of Yosemite Valley is being managed “for minimum impact to wilderness character” by the same Type 1 Team suppressing the El Portal Fire.

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(UPDATED at 9:30 a.m. MDT, July 28, 2014)

Map of El Portal Fire, July 27, 2014
Map of El Portal Fire, July 27, 2014. (click to enlarge)

Carlton Joseph’s Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of both the El Portal and the Dark Hole Fires Sunday night.

El Portal Fire. NPS photo.
El Portal Fire. Undated NPS photo.

El Portal Fire

On Sunday the size of the fire was reported at 2,632 acres, and includes land in both Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. Firefighters are reporting no containment on the fire. It started Saturday afternoon in the Old El Portal area of the park’s administrative site and grew rapidly from there.

Evacuations are still in effect for Foresta and Old El Portal. One structure has burned in Foresta and approximately 90 residences are threatened.

The Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat and the El Portal Road is temporarily closed. There is no access to Yosemite Valley via the Big Oak Flat or Tioga Roads or Highway 120. Tioga Road is open and accessible via Big Oak Flat and Tioga Pass Entrances.

The fire is threatening the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias within the National Park. Due to the steep and remote terrain there will be a heavy dependence on Type 1 Hand Crews and aviation assets.

Dark Hole Fire

The Dark Hole Fire is 4.5 miles north of Yosemite Valley and about 2 miles south of Highway 120/Tioga Road. Following a lightning storm it was detected on July 16 about a mile south of Yosemite Creek campground.

Information about the fire provided by Yosemite National Park on July 24 seemed to indicate that the fire was to be “managed”, and not totally suppressed. That strategy may be reevaluated in light of the fact that it has grown to 585 acres, spreading to the east and north over the last 24 hours, and with 2 to 4 months of fire season remaining.

Half Dome at 9:23 a.m. PDT, July 28, 2014.
Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, obscured by smoke at 9:23 a.m. PDT, July 28, 2014.

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(UPDATED at 11:33 PDT, July 27, 2014)

We prepared the map of the El Portal Fire below based on data provided by the National Park Service. The thicker green line is the boundary of Yosemite National Park, with the park being on the right side, or east of the line.

Map of El Portal Fire, June 27, 2014
Map of El Portal Fire, June 27, 2014. Wildfire Today & NPS

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(UPDATED at 10:54 a.m. PDT, July 27, 2014)

These photos of the El Portal Fire outside the entrance to Yosemite Valley were taken yesterday, July 26.

El Portal Fire
El Portal Fire as seen from Crane Flat Lookout, July 26, 2014.
El Portal Fire, July26, 2014.
El Portal Fire, July 26, 2014.

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(UPDATED at 9:10 a.m. PDT, July 27, 2014)

El Portal Fire
El Portal Fire, July 26, 2014. NPS photo.

The El Portal Fire outside the entrance to Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park has grown to 2,100 acres, said Ashley Mayer, a spokesperson for the park. The fire is being fought by 400 personnel, and a Type 1 incident management team has been dispatched.

The communities of Foresta and Old El Portal have been evacuated.

Yosemite Valley from Turtleback
The view of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley was obscured by smoke, at 9:03 a.m. PDT, July 27, 2014. Half Dome and Yosemite Falls are also enveloped by smoke.

Big Oak Flat Road is closed between El Portal Road and Crane Flat, but Highway 140 remains open. (The information we received earlier from the National Park Service about the road being closed between Hetch Hetchy Dam and Crane Flat has been changed by the park.)

The El Portal Fire is burning on land administered by the NPS, U.S. Forest Service, and private land owners.

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(Originally published at 7:27 p.m., July 26, 2014)

El Portal Fire from camera at Turtleback Dome
El Portal Fire as seen from an NPS camera at Turtleback Dome, 6:30 p.m. PDT, July 26, 2014.

Two fires in Yosemite National Park in California are in the news Saturday evening. A new fire, the El Portal Fire, is threatening structures and requiring mandatory evacuations in the Foresta area northwest of the entrance to Yosemite Valley. Park spokesperson Kari Cobb said at 6:40 p.m. on Saturday it had burned between 300 and 500 acres. A DC-10 very large air tanker was diverted from the Sand Fire south of Placerville, California to drop on the El Portal Fire.

The fire is moving to the north and east but it did not show up on these two maps that show heat detected by the satellite that flew over at 2:15 p.m. PDT, Saturday, since the fire started at about 4 p.m.

A Type 1 incident management team has been ordered for the fire.

Smoke from the fire can be seen from the NPS camera at Turtleback dome, which looks to the southwest.

Map of Dark Hole and El Portal Fires
3-D map of the Dark Hole and El Portal Fires at 2:15 p.m. PDT, July 26, 2014. The red and yellow squares represent heat detected by a satellite. Click to see a larger version.

Dark Hole Fire

Dark Hole Fire
Dark Hole Fire, published July 26 by Yosemite Wildland Fire.

The other fire burning in Yosemite National Park is the Dark Hole Fire, which is 4.5 miles north of Yosemite Valley and about 2 miles south of Highway 120/Tioga Road. It was detected on July 16 about a mile south of Yosemite Creek campground. The park’s July 24 fire update stated it was 11 acres, but it has grown substantially since then, primarily to the north toward Highway 120.

The park’s July 24 fire update was a little vague about this fire specifically, but seemed to indicate that the recent lightning fires would be “managed”, but not totally suppressed:

Yosemite fire management is developing strategies for these fires and depending on risk assessment; most of these current fires will be naturally extinguished. Fire crews will utilize natural barriers of granite, streams or open ground to manage fires.

YOSE fires at 215 pm PDT, July 26, 2014
Conventional 2-D map of the Dark Hole and El Portal Fires at 2:15 p.m. PDT, July 26, 2014. The red and yellow squares represent heat detected by a satellite. North is up on the map. Click to see a larger version.

The park received 3,000 lightning strikes between July 14 and 20, starting at least 21 fires.

YOSE lightning strikes July 14-20, 2014

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

3 thoughts on “Two fires in Yosemite; one threatens structures”

  1. Very much appreciate the maps that put fires in context. I forward the maps to Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services and Red Cross, if local to our area.

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