The Washburn Fire burning near Yosemite National Park’s famed Mariposa Grove grew slightly to nearly 1,600 acres while continuing to threaten the park’s largest stand of sequoia trees and one of its most popular tourist attractions.
The blaze, which sparked Friday near the grove’s Washburn Trail, has burned 1,591 acres in and around the Mariposa Grove — an increase of nearly 200 acres since Saturday, according to an InciWeb update from fire officials on Sunday morning. About 360 personnel have been sent to battle the blaze, an increase of about 150 people since Friday night.
The fire has choked much of the nearby Sierra Nevada with smoke while leaving off-limits one of the most popular — and historically significant — areas of the park. Wawona and the Wawona Campground remain under evacuation, and officials have given no timeline for when visitors may be able to return.
— NWS Reno (@NWSReno) July 10, 2022
The latest map of the fire area appears to show the grove’s main trailhead alongside — or just inside — the fire boundary, along with a few trails in the area. Still, other areas of the grove appear to have been spared. The blaze appears to have burned to the west and north of the vast majority of the grove’s Grizzly Giant Loop and its Guardians of the Grove loop — two popular hiking trails that feature some of the most heavily-visited sequoias in the Sierra Nevada, including Bachelor & Three Graces and the hulking Grizzly Giant.
The latest fire map, which is current as of 10 p.m. Saturday, shows the fire remaining just south of the Merced River.
Still, it remains unclear exactly how much of the grove has burned, and whether any infrastructure in the area has been affected.
Weather conditions are expected to remain relatively calm Sunday for firefighters battling the blaze, through increasing heat over the next several days could complicate efforts to contain the fire, said Jeff Barlow, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Temperatures in the area are expected to be in the mid-80s on Sunday – roughly average for this time of year, Barlow said. However, they could reach into the 90s on Monday and Tuesday.
Still, winds are expected to remain fairly calm, and humidity levels have been relatively high overnight, he said. On Saturday night, for example, relative humidity levels reached 77% in the area, and they are expected to remain above 30% Sunday.
“Winds are basically terrain-driven – they’re generally light and variable overnight,” Barlow said. “And they get a little gusty in the afternoon, with the upslope conditions. But we really don’t have any large-scale weather fronts or anything that’s going to cause these winds to become strong and dangerous.”
“It’s the fuel – the fuel is super dry. That’s the problem,” Barlow added.
Check back for more updates as this story develops.