FRESNO, Calif. - Firefighters relied on a giant air tanker to make steady progress yesterday against a five-day-old wildfire that has closed one of the main roads leading into Yosemite National Park.
The fire was about one-third contained yesterday. The area of Old El Portal, a compound of private homes on national forest land, is under threat of evacuation. Campgrounds and trailer parks in the area have been ordered closed, as has a compound of about 70 homes leased to park employees.
But the fire has not caused any major problems at Yosemite, and the park’s well-known stunning vistas have not been obscured by smoke, said park spokesman Scott Gediman.
The fire is burning along the Highway 140 corridor in the Stanislaus National Forest leading to Yosemite and has scorched 7.5 square miles since it began Thursday. It was sparked when a motor home caught fire.
The fire is an anomaly in what has been a relatively quiet fire season in California.
“This year we have not had very many large and damaging wildfires,’’ said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “The combinations of cooperation from the weather and aggressive initial attacks have kept them small.’’
But with a change in seasons that usually triggers higher winds, the most critical time is ahead.
The steep canyon terrain has made it difficult for firefighters on the ground. It has blackened the scenic Merced River Canyon to the top of the ridges on both sides.
More than 800 firefighters have saved 70 homes, two commercial properties, and 35 outbuildings, said Kass Hardy, a National Park Service fire spokeswoman.