Protecting Yosemite's Sequoias from Fire

As the El Portal Fire grows within 10 miles of the Merced Sequoia Grove, firefighters protect the area with water from the Merced River.

Update: August 5, 2014: The El Portal fire is 100% contained thanks to efforts from firefighters. The sequoia grove remained protected and the Yosemite Valley is now clear from smoke.

July 26, 2014: California’s El Portal Fire started on Saturday, July 26, 2014, north of Highway 140, on the western edge of Yosemite National Park. By Wednesday, it had burned over 3,500 acres and was 34% contained.

Yosemite has three sequoia groves containing ancient trees about 3,000 years old. On Wednesday, the El Portal Fire was just ten miles from the Merced Grove’s 20 trees, the smallest grove. Northern California fire officials said they want to block the blaze off before it gets too close. “It needs to be protected,” Carlton Joseph, incident commander for the fire, told the San Francisco Chronicle. (

Firefighters have been using helicopters to draw water from the Merced River, and DC10 planes have been dropping fire retardant. In all, over 800 firefighters have been protecting the park and nearby communities from the encroaching flames.

Yosemite Valley can still be reached via Highway 140 and Highway 120 is open through the mountains, but visitors to the area were being told to expect poor visibility and air quality.

For the latest updates about roads and facilities in Yosemite, refer to the following websites:

Yosemite National Park Fire Info:

Yosemite National Parks Road Information:

Live Air Quality Conditions:

Road closures within the park may change at any time. Visitors seeking updated information regarding road conditions should call 209-372-0200.