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Deadly fire closes major route to Yosemite National Park

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California firefighter killed battling wildfire

Braden Sickle was killed fighting a fire near Yosemite National Park.

MARIPOSA, Calif. – A forest fire that killed a California firefighter grew rapidly and forced the closure of a major route in Yosemite National Park, crews contended with wet conditions on Sunday, authorities said.

The so-called Ferguson Fire that broke out Friday burned nearly 7 square miles of dry brush along the steep, remote slopes on the park’s western edge. It burned largely out of control, and the officials cut off from electricity in many areas, including Yosemite Valley, as a precaution.

The guests were ordered to leave Yosemite Cedar Lodge on Saturday, fire crept up hillsides and the air was thick of smoke.

“You can’t see anything, it is so smoky outside. It’s crazy,” said front desk clerk Spencer Arebalo, one of a handful of employees that stayed behind in the popular hotel in the park.

He said that it was surreal to see that the property is empty at the height of the tourist season.

“We rely on closed at least one day more,” Arebalo said.

Evacuations were also ordered in rural communities just outside the park, and the people in the nearby lodges and motels had to be ready to leave when flames approach. A stretch of State Route 140 into Yosemite was closed, and motorists were urged to find alternative routes.

Temperatures addition of 95 degrees and inaccessible terrain make it difficult for the crew to slow the flames, the U. S. Forest Service fire Capt. Mike Seymour said.

Heavy fire equipment operator Braden Varney, 36, died early Saturday at the fire line, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Varney was driving a bulldozer to create an opening in the vegetation to the flames to expand into a nearby community, according to the Cal Fire Fire Chief Nancy Koerperich.

Varney’s body will not be picked up until Monday at the earliest because it is in a “precarious location” and the conditions were too dangerous on the weekend, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said.

The wildfire is one of the many fires throughout the country and among 56 large brands that are active in the united states, the most in the american West, a region that suffers from drought and heat.

A blaze near the California-Oregon border that killed a 72-year-old resident were injured and three firefighters was almost fully contained after burning more than 60 square miles of dry brush.

Crew got the full control over a stubborn fire that raged 142 square miles of brush and destroyed 20 structures in the Yolo and Napa county. The researchers said an electric fence that livestock was installed incorrectly fueled the flames.

At the fire near Yosemite, the researchers tried to find out more information about Varney died on Saturday, but they believe that he was working his way out of the fire area, when he was killed, Koerperich said.

“This is sure to be devastating for his family and those of us who call him family here with Cal Fire,” she said.

Sickle had worked for Cal Fire for 10 years. His father also worked as a Cal Fire heavy equipment operator. He is survived by his wife, Jessica; daughter Malhea, 5; and son Nolan, 3.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags at the California Capitol will be flown at half staff to honor “a man who dedicated his life to protecting his fellow Californians.”

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