South Fork and Empire Fire Updates - August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017 Posted by: Yosemite Fire Information

South Fork Fire

Start date: 8/13/17 2:30 pm
Size: 2,407 acres                                                                  Containment: 7%
Cause: Unknown                                                                  Incident Personnel: 449
Fuels: Mixed conifer, oak and brush 

The fire grew minimally yesterday as thunderstorms skirted the perimeter. Mandatory evacuations will remain in place in Wawona for the area east of Highway 41 on Forest Dr. and Chilnualna Falls Rd.

The fire remains active in all divisions. Crews are working in steep and inaccessible terrain with heavy fuel loads. Firefighters will continue to strengthen the firelines located east of Wawona and suppress spot fires occurring on the south of the South Fork of the Merced. A combination of firing operations, air support, and direct line construction will continue.

Aircraft will assist ground crews when conditions allow generally beginning mid-day. Strategic objectives remain the same: utilize air and ground resources to hold the western and southern flanks while monitoring the northern and eastern edges. Minimal Impact Suppression Tactics are being used in the Yosemite Wilderness to manage the area of the fire, using natural barriers such as rocks or streams, trails, and other minimal disturbance methods to contain the fire.

Thunderstorm activity is expected to cause erratic winds over the fire area throughout the week.

There are currently 522 personnel assigned to the fire: 13 hand crews, 7 helicopters, 13 engines.

A map illustrating the South Fork Fire, burning east of the community of Wawona.

Empire Fire

Location: N 37° 38' 40" x W 119° 37' 6" at approximately 7300 feet elevation
Discovery Date: July 31, 2017
Size: 1,450 acres
Cause: Lightning 

The Empire Fire is being managed for both resource and protection objectives. It is approximately 1 mile south of the Bridalveil Creek Campground east of Alder Creek drainage and west of Bridalveil Creek drainage, burning in Red fir. Fire behavior has been actively flanking and backing with some single and group tree torching. The fire is burning in heavy pockets of dead and down timber, reducing fuels buildup which increases forest resiliency. Projected fire growth is expected in the northeast and southeast flanks.

The affected area is in a fire-adapted wilderness. Allowing fires to burn naturally can result in
healthier, more diverse ecosystems. Reducing fuels buildup minimizes the potential for future severe fires. Although the current fire may have transient, moderate smoke impacts, more severe fires can cause unhealthy levels of smoke for extended periods, over a much wider area.

Trails are closed from Bridalveil Creek Campground at the second junction with the Ostrander trail and from Westfall Meadow to the Deer Camp junction, along Alder Creek. Bridalveil Creek Campground is closed for fire resource use.

The fire will be visible from the high country and may be seen from multiple viewpoints in the
immediate area off Glacier Point Road including Sentinel and Washburn Points.

Fire Managers are working with the local Air Quality Districts and will be monitoring smoke impacts to the park and local communities. Community members who are sensitive to smoke may want to close their windows and doors and monitor the air quality links below.

Additional Information

  • Rapid Notify is a community alert system for rapid event notifications. Register by visiting www.alert.rapid
  • Nixle is a public-safety notification system. Sign up for emergency alerts by texting 95389 to 888-777 or visit their website at

Last updated: August 20, 2017

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