2 fires in Yosemite National Park, Empire and South Fork

Above: Satellite photo of the South Fork and Empire Fires in Yosemite National Park, August 14, 2017.

(Originally published at 3:40 a.m. PDT August 14, 2017)

Two large fires are burning in Yosemite National Park. The Empire Fire started two weeks ago and is being monitored but not completely suppressed. It has spread across 1,200 acres one mile south of Bridalveil Campground in Yosemite’s Wilderness.

The first report of the South Fork Fire came in at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, August 13 near the South Fork of the Merced River 2.6 miles east of Wawona.

South Fork Fire
South Fork Fire. Posted on InciWeb August 14, 2017.

It has burned approximately 1,000 acres. Smoke has prevented the use of air tankers at times, but there is a report that all three of the military MAFFS aircraft currently activated have dropped on the fire when the smoke has cleared.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered.

South Fork Fire map empire
3-D map of the South Fork and Empire Fires in Yosemite National Park, August 14, 2017.

Wildfire smoke travels farther south into the United States

Wildfire smoke
Wildfire smoke at 1:20 a.m. MDT August 14, 2017. NOAA.

While sleeping with the windows open I woke up at 2 a.m. Monday morning with the strong smell of forest fire smoke in the house. I checked NOAA’s smoke map on my phone and sure enough there it was, in several shades of brown. Oddly, in spite of the strong smell, it is barely registering at the nearest air quality monitoring site.

Canadian smoke does not often drift this far south into the Black Hills of South Dakota in high enough concentrations to have a strong odor.

Wildfires air quality
Wildfires and air quality, at 2 a.m. MDT August 14, 2017

air quality legendBut it is much, much worse in some areas. I have friends that basically evacuated from Missoula at least temporarily because of the smoke, where Saturday the air was “very unhealthy”. And this morning in Calgary, Alberta the PM2.5 is 234, also “very unhealthy”.

And, thanks to the South Fork Fire that started Sunday 1.5 miles east of the community of Wawona in Yosemite National Park and the Empire Fire that has been burning in that area since August 1, it is “unhealthy” to breathe in Yosemite Valley where the PM2.5 is 154. The Empire Fire is not being suppressed so the smoky conditions could persist for an extended period of time. The South Fork Fire is a suppression fire.