The Mariposa motor fire has burned over 5,200 acres and has closed a section of Highway 140, from the Foresta Bridge west, and closed Incline Road and Forest Road 1S12. Officials are also advising people not to use Highway 140 heading to Yosemite.
Fire officials say hot spots are burning along the West side of the Merced River Canyon, but the fire is most active to the east near Moss Canyon.
Day four of the blaze and the air is clear of smoke and the terrain looks clear, but officials say the fire isn’t out yet. Crews are working to cut it off by creating a secure line across the area.
Meanwhile, helicopters are attacking the fire from the air while hand crews stand by. They are working as a tag team; the helicopters are dropping water and the hand crews are running in quickly attacking embers left behind. “It’s really rocky and steep. The only way we can get in there is with hand crews and they’re making really good progress,” says Armando Rios Merced Battalion Chief with Cal Fire.
The fire has caused road closures and shut down two schools. Students at Yosemite Park High School and El Portal Elementary got the day off. For 5-year-old Jackson Tarney that means he gets to watch the action.
The fire is 50% contained and if hot spots flare up evacuations could be in order. The town of El Portal is on the advisory list but many residents are staying in town. They say they believe the worst is over. “Today is much calmer; it’s a lot easier to walk around,” says El Portal resident Steven Tarney.
Visibly the canyon looks safe but there’s still danger in the hills; officials say the fire's potential to spread is still high. “Because you don’t know where its going to spark up, you don’t know what the fields are like in each area,” says Rios.
Over 800 crews and 11 helicopters are still working the Mariposa terrain. In four days, the fire has caused $3.2 million in damages. Crews say they expect to have the fire out by September 9th.