Fire officials on Friday said they are "cautiously optimistic" they may have the upper hand on the El Portal fire burning in Yosemite National Park -- but the French fire in Sierra National Forest has been growing swiftly.
That Madera County blaze has engulfed more than 8,200 acres.
Officials on the El Portal fire -- which has burned at least 4,518 acres -- allowed Foresta residents to return home Friday. Two homes were destroyed in this small Yosemite community last Saturday, the day the fire started. Foresta will be open to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The El Portal fire is 78% contained, compared to the French fire's 15% containment.
The French fire's containment is around its southwest edge, near a cluster of homes in Hogue Ranch and Kinsman Flat, said Anne Grandy, a fire information officer. On Friday afternoon, residents living in the seasonal mountain community of Arnold Meadow were told to evacuate because of increased fire activity along the northern perimeter of the French fire. The fire was first spotted Monday.
Air officials continue to warn residents about wildfire smoke, which has been creeping into the central San Joaquin Valley, although impacts haven't been severe.
Some of the most sensitive to smoke -- usually worse in the mornings and evenings -- are those with respiratory conditions, children, pregnant women and the elderly, who should avoid outdoor activity. Indoor cooling systems will help filter air. Valley air conditions are available online at http://www.valleyair.org/Programs/RAAN/raan--monitoring--system.htm
At the El Portal fire, most new activity was northwest, with flames near Crane Flat Campground and about a mile and half from the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, which isn't believed to be in the fire's immediate path.
"We're cautiously optimistic that our efforts are paying dividends to stop the forward movement of the fire," said Mark Savage, spokesman for the firefighting effort. "But with the hot, dry conditions, it doesn't take much for that fire to start moving again."
The French fire's eastern flank is running along the San Joaquin River, and the northern end of the blaze is southwest of Mammoth Pool.
At the El Portal fire, Crane Flat, Yosemite Creek and Bridalveil Creek campgrounds remain closed. At the French fire, there are 12 campgrounds and some Forest Service roads and trails closed, listed online at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4013/‚
At least 1,341 personnel are fighting the El Portal fire, costing about $5.7 million. The French fire has at least 1,422 personnel, costing about $3.7 million.
Another Yosemite blaze, the Dark Hole fire, has firefighters' attention. Begun by a lightning strike July 16, the high country fire off Tioga Road has burned at least 725 acres and was 39% contained, with 86 firefighters assigned to it.
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