YOSEMITE VALLEY, Calif. — Containment grew overnight on a fire burning for more than a week in Yosemite National Park and residents of the community of Wawona can return to their homes starting Sunday, park officials said Saturday.
The Washburn fire was 37% contained, up from 27% Friday, and grew slightly to 7.5 square miles (19 square kilometers).
“Yesterday we had a very successful day and it was the day we were waiting for,” said Matt Ahearn, operations section chief in a Saturday morning briefing.
The fire started July 7 and is now burning in the Sierra National Forest. How the blaze began remains under investigation but officials suspect people were the source.
Yosemite National Park visitors are prohibited from starting campfires or smoking in some areas to reduce the threat of sparking new wildfires, the National Park Service said Friday.
The famed Mariposa Grove, which includes more than 500 mature sequoias, has escaped serious damage but the area will remain closed to visitors. Ahearn said crews were cleaning up in the grove.
People who own private property as well as park employees who live in Wawona can return to their homes starting Sunday morning, but only with escorts. The area remains under a fire advisory.
Farther north, all evacuation orders and road closures were lifted Saturday morning in the Peter Fire in Shasta County. Crews also reported favorable overnight conditions and containment was at 65%, up from 34% Friday.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire erupted shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday and destroyed 12 structures.
According to Cal Fire, the 2021 fire season started earlier than previous years, but also ended earlier, as well. January 2021 saw just under 1,200 acres burned from nearly 300 wildfires. Fires picked up in the summer when the Dixie Fire burned in five Northern California counties — Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Lassen and Tehama. The Dixie Fire started on July 13 and wasn't contained until Oct. 25, burning nearly 1 million acres. It has since become the second-largest wildfire in state history and the largest non-complex fire.
Overall, 2.5 million acres were burned in 2021 from 8,835 wildfires. Over 3,600 structures were destroyed and 3 people were killed.
If you live in a wildfire-prone zone, Cal Fire suggests creating a defensible space around your home. Defensible space is an area around a building in which vegetation and other debris are completely cleared. At least 100 feet is recommended.
The Department of Homeland Security suggests assembling an emergency kit that has important documents, N95 respirator masks, and supplies to grab with you if you’re forced to leave at a moment’s notice. The agency also suggests signing up for local warning system notifications and knowing your community’s evacuation plans best to prepare yourself and your family in cases of wildfires.
Some counties use Nixle alerts to update residents on severe weather, wildfires, and other news. To sign up, visit www.nixle.com or text your zip code to 888777 to start receiving alerts.
PG&E customers can also subscribe to alerts via text, email, or phone call. If you're a PG&E customer, visit the Profile & Alerts section of your account to register.
What questions do you have about the latest wildfires? If you're impacted by the wildfires, what would you like to know? Text the ABC10 team at (916) 321-3310.