MARIPOSA (CBS SF/AP) — A memorial service for Braden Varney, who was killed while operating a Cal Fire bulldozer last week while battling the Ferguson Fire, was planned for his hometown of Modesto Monday as the wildfire continued to rage out of control near Yosemite National Forest.
The fire has scorched nearly 53 square miles (137 square kilometers) of timber and was just 13 percent contained as of Monday morning. While a thick haze continued to blanket the National Park, campers and visitors were still being allowed to enter the popular tourist destination.
More than 3,000 firefighters were battling rugged terrain in their effort to contain the blaze and now temperatures were predicted to soar into the triple digits by mid-week.
While the blaze has not destroyed any structures yet, it has taken a brutal toll on firefighters. Varney was killed and four other firefighters have been injured since the fight to contain the flames began on July 13.
Two firefighters, who were hospitalized Friday after suffering back injuries, have since been released and were expected to fully recover, said fire spokesman Rich Eagan.
Thirteen areas remain under mandatory evacuation orders.
North of the Merced River, the fire was burning in the Stanislaus National Forest and fire managers were using a mix of heavy equipment and hand crews to widen roads and build lines in the Montgomery Gulch area.
To the south, the fire continued to burn in the Chowchilla area and indirect-line construction was moving forward to protect Wawona and Yosemite National Park.
Aerial firefighting resources including a pair of DC-10 tanker planes and a fleet of helicopters have been utilized to slow the fire’s spread.
Along the western edge, firefighters have had great success protecting structures in Jerseydale and were mopping up areas on the edge of the fire to ensure the fire remains within containment lines.