California wildfires: French Fire burns 5,600 acres; crews work to protect sequoias in Yosemite

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12:32 p.m.: French Fire in Madera County burns 5,600 acres

A wildfire continued to burn nearly out of control on Wednesday in Madera County, though firefighters managed to establish an anchor point and containment line near an area that was spreading toward homes.

The French Fire, which started early Monday morning and had scorched 5,600 acres by Wednesday morning, was one of several fires burning across the state. 

Firefighters have made steady gains on the Sand Fire in Amador County, reaching 90 percent containment, and the El Portal Fire was at 34 percent containment.

In contrast, there was still 0 percent containment on the French Fire with more than 500 firefighters deployed to help.

Fire Tracker: French Fire in Madera County

The fire is burning in the area between Rock Creek and Fish Creek campgrounds in the San Joaquin River drainage.

The fire is still active, mainly moving toward the north, south and west side, according to Raj Singh, fire information officer with the incident management team.

"The south end is our primary concern because it's moving toward the houses," said Singh. Several summer homes in the Hougue Apple Ranch and Wagner’s Resort were already evacuated. 

There were thunderstorms in the area on Tuesday night. More were predicted Wednesday over the higher elevations. Unpredictable winds caused by the storms were also a safety concern for firefighters.

Any thunderstorm would hamper the fire effort, since fire crews would have to move back and wait until the storm passed.

"As the cloud and storms move over the fire, we have to watch and see what the winds do," said Singh. "It could be going one way in one second and turn around and go the other way within just a few moments."

Despite the concern about thunderstorms, the crews were making progress. Fire crews will continue to build containment lines on all sides.

Authorities said they are expecting to have some containment starting Wednesday. 

Minarets Road between Arch Rock and Redinger Overlook and Grizzly Road between Beasore and Minarets roads have been closed.

Twelve forest campgrounds in the area have been closed, as well. There was no estimated time on when the campgrounds will be open again.

The fire has produced large amounts of smoke, which impacted local communities. Smoke is typically greater in the morning and evening hours. Outdoor activities are not suggested.

10:24 a.m.: Crews work to keep Yosemite fire from sequoias

Fire crews are working to prevent the El Portal Fire in Yosemite National Park from spreading to a grove of giant sequoia trees.

However, park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Associated Press Wednesday there was no imminent threat to Merced Grove.

The fire was about 10 miles away, and crews were reinforcing old containment lines to prevent it from getting to the trees.

Merced Grove is among three stands of giant sequoias in the park. The towering trees grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on earth, AP reports.

Meanwhile, homes in Foresta, Calif., remained under evacuation orders, park spokesperson Ashley Mayer told KPCC. The fire has burned 3,545 acres and was 34 percent contained.

Fire Tracker: El Portal Fire in Mariposa County

Mayer said people with asthma or any concerns about smoke should be aware that there is some smoke in the park, but that the air quality has been moderate to good.

All park entrances remained open Wednesday, though Mayer said visitors approaching from Highway 120 should use an alternate route into Yosemite Valley. Big Oak Flat Road was closed from Crane Flat to El Portal Road.

The following campgrounds are closed:

  • Crane Flat Campground
  • Yosemite Creek Campground
  • Bridal Veil Creek Campground (used by fire personnel)

Fire crews faced high temperatures, changing winds and the potential for thunderstorms and lightning in their efforts to contain the fire Wednesday.

In Amador County, fire crews increased containment slightly to 90 percent on the Sand Fire.

Fire Tracker: Sand Fire in Amador County

This story has been updated.

With contributions by AP

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