Fire Prevention 52: Remembering Our Losses—The El Portal Market

Portal Market on Fire

A Cornerstone of the Community

The historic El Portal Market in Yosemite National Park was destroyed in an electrical fire on April 21, 2008. Built in 1934, the market was a cornerstone of the El Portal community, serving as a general merchandise store for 74 years, as well as a community meeting place. The store originally greeted visitors traveling by train to Yosemite and was one of El Portal's oldest buildings. The loss of the structure was deeply mourned by locals as well as park employees.

Learning from the Past

Losses from fire are preventable. By learning about significant NPS fires, such as the one at the El Portal Market, we can ensure that with proper fire protection and management we can better protect our nation's heritage and secure the rich array of cultural resources and historic structures for future generations. Losses are devastating, but we can learn from them to prevent further tragedy.

New exterior image of the market
The new El Portal Market

Fire Info for You

Employees
To learn more about the loss of the El Portal Market, view the corresponding NPS FlashBack, an educational tool designed to share the lessons learned from significant NPS structural fires.

Park Structural Fire Coordinators
Conduct annual fire and life safety building inspections to identify potential fire hazards. Once identified in advance, potential hazards can be corrected to help prevent fires.

Park Leadership
Ensure that your buildings are protected with properly designed, installed, maintained, and monitored fire protection systems. These systems are the best means for the National Park Service to protect its structures from the effects of fire. Properly designed, installed, and maintained fire protection systems ensure the quickest means of notification and response to a structure fire incident.

Even though firefighters were on scene at the El Portal Market within seven minutes of the initial fire report, the building was already engulfed in flames and could not be saved. Early notification by an alarm system may have provided a different outcome.

Take Action

Embrace your role as a fire preventer:

  • Report fire hazards immediately to your park structural fire coordinator.
  • Turn off electrical equipment, such as coffee pots and laminators, when not in use.
  • Take fire alarms seriously and respond to alarms according to park guidelines.

NPS Fire Facts

Yosemite National Park recognized the significance of the El Portal Market to the community and arranged for its move to the El Portal Motor Inn (once known as the Special Park Uses Office) for the remainder of the concessionaire's six-year contract. The market still serves the community daily from this location. Travelers can warm themselves by the historic stone fireplace and enjoy one of the market’s well-known breakfast sandwiches.