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El Portal Fire spreads; some evacuations to be lifted

A wildfire is still burning in the mountains on the west end of Yosemite National Park.
A wildfire is still burning in the mountains on the west end of Yosemite National Park. The El Portal Fire has now burned 3,060 acres and and is 19 percent contained.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday:

- El Portal residents will be allowed back to their homes

- Foresta Road at Highway 140 will open to residents only

- Crane Creek at Highway 140 will open to residents only

- Highway 120 (Big Oak Flat Road) is closed from Crane Flat to Highway 140

- Foresta remains under evacuation

Tioga Pass Road, Highway 41 and Highway 140 remain open.

Yosemite National Park remains open. All entrance gates leading into and out of the park are open. However, visitors using the HWY 120 entrances, at Chinese Camp and Tioga Pass, will not be able to access the Yosemite Valley floor as Big Oak Flat Road is Closed. Also, visitors in Yosemite Valley will not be able to access Tuolumne Meadow or Tioga Pass as Big Oak Flat Road is closed.

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About nine helicopters are helping firefighters to put out the fire. At least one of them is pulling water from the Merced River and dropping it on the flames burning through thick brush in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

Once an area is contained and cooled by the overhead drops, hand crews begin cutting fire lines -- in some cases reopening fire breaks created by crews during the Motor Fire in 2011.

Laura Shenk says she saw the fire spark on Saturday and called 911. The quick moving wildfire forced Shenk and her family from their homes.

"I'm used to picking up all the things I know I want to keep and getting out of the house quickly, but there was definitely added stress this time knowing it was so close," said Shenk.

Dozens of others are in the same frightening situation. They met at El Portal School on Monday for a fire update. And for most, there was good news. Old El Portal will soon be cleared of evacuation orders.

"Folks can go home tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock. So for community members here in Old El Portal that was great news," said Yosemite Public Affairs Officer Scott Gediman.

Bad news for a woman and her husband whose Foresta duplex was destroyed in the fire. She stood up to thank her neighbors and firefighters for helping them escape.

But even with an incident team of more than 800, the fire will keep many from their homes for a few more days.

"We don't have active flames in Foresta, but there are some hot spots, some logs that are still burning, and there's a concern," said Gediman.

And the concern is not scaring off tourists who are still heading into Yosemite along Highway 140. The focus remains air attacks until hand crews get to the front lines and put this fire out.

Infrared scans are being done Monday night to determine which areas to attack in the morning and to get a better idea of how much area has burned.

Fire officials say they will keep Foresta under evacuation orders since there are a lot of hot spots burning. An update on those evacuations should come on Wednesday.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday:

- El Portal residents will be allowed back to their homes

- Foresta Road at Highway 140 will open to residents only

- Crane Creek at Highway 140 will open to residents only

- Highway 120 (Big Oak Flat Road) is closed from Crane Flat to Highway 140

- Foresta remains under evacuation

Tioga Pass Road, Highway 41 and Highway 140 remain open.

Yosemite National Park remains open. All entrance gates leading into and out of the park are open.

The Crane Flat and Yosemite Creek campgrounds are temporarily closed. The Bridalveil Campground is being used for fire operations and is therefore closed.

The Red Cross has opened a resource center located at the New Life Christian Church -- 5089 Cole Road, Mariposa.

Anyone with questions about the El Portal Fire is asked to call (209) 372-0329 or (209) 372-0328.

Related Topics:
news fire wildfire evacuation mariposa county Yosemite National Park
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