El Portal fire at 3,500 acres, 34 percent contained

07/29/2014 6:34 PM

07/30/2014 7:13 AM

UPDATE, 7:10 a.m. Wednesday: The California Interagency Management Team this morning reported the fire is at 3,545 acres and 34 percent containment.

The El Portal fire along the edge of Yosemite National Park had charred more than 3,000 acres and was 19 percent contained Tuesday, a jump from the 5 percent containment cited by fire officials the day before.

Residents in Old El Portal were allowed to return to the community Tuesday morning, but the community of Foresta and its roughly 45 homes remains evacuated.

El Portal, a small, mostly bedroom community for National Park Service employees along Highway 140, rests below Foresta. The fire destroyed one Foresta duplex.

On Tuesday morning, 640 fire personnel continued to battle the blaze, which was headed roughly north, according to fire information personnel with the Park Service. Officials said there is a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms later Tuesday that could affect the fire – either with helpful rain or dangerous lightning strikes.

The Dark Hole fire, another Yosemite blaze, had burned about 580 acres and was 5 percent contained Tuesday. The fire, begun by a lightning strike July 16, is burning near Yosemite Creek Campground off Tioga Road, the Highway 120 connector over the Sierra Nevada. An estimated 35 firefighters are working to ensure this fire, burning in the high country, doesn't get out of hand.

Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) remains closed from the Crane Flat gas station to its juncture with Highway 140. There was no estimated opening for the road on Tuesday morning.

Yosemite Valley is accessible via highways 140 and 41. Highway 120 remains open from the east side of the Sierra, along Tioga Road, through the town of Groveland and beyond.

Three Yosemite campsites – Crane Flat, Yosemite Creek and Bridalveil Creek (used for firefighter stationing) -- remain closed.

Because of the fires, the annual apple picking, scheduled for Wednesday in Yosemite Valley, has been postponed. The picking is part of a program to reduce the number of encounters between people and black bears by removing non-native food sources.

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