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“Motor Fire” burns 3,000 acres near Yosemite Valley; Highway 140 closed!

A wildfire named the “Motor Fire” started around 12:30 PM on Thursday when the propane tank of a motor home exploded near Highway 140 and Incline Road, according to Sierra National Forest spokeswoman Brenda McCants. A Google Map is here. A Budweiser truck driver, Junior Sanchez, who was driving behind the RV said that the motor home pulled over to release a car it was towing when the propane tank exploded. The driver also took photos of the fire. The fire, which has burned 3,000 acres since Thursday, is located a half mile east of the south fork of the Merced River, which is a rural area.

McCants said that residents of El Portal and Jerseydale were ordered to evacuate. Yosemite National Park spokesman, Jim Tucker, said the Cedar Lodge Motel, with 250 rooms, was evacuated Friday. In addition, about 24 homes in the Incline Road housing area, near the Merced River, were also evacuated. Incline and local Merced River Canyon Campgrounds were voluntarily evacuated. Rancheria, Old El Portal, and Yosemite West have been advised to prepare for evacuations.

A number of agencies and about 1,000 firefighters are on the scene of the fire, which remains uncontained. Winds in the Merced Canyon and the steep slopes are helping to spread the fire, which is burning on BOTH sides of the Merced River canyon that surrounds Highway 140.

Highway 140 along the Merced River, a key route to Yosemite Vally, has been closed from the Foresta Bridge westward. There is no estimate for its reopening. If you are traveling to Yosemite Valley, seek up-to-date travel information and an alternative route.

Some 70 structures, including homes and businesses, are being threatened by the fire, as well as 35 outbuildings. Those areas have been evacuated.

A good map of the affected area is on the Firefighter Blog, which states:

“The GeoMac image above highlights the perimeters of recent fire activity including the Telegraph to the west and the Grouse and Big Meadow fires to the east. The Big Meadow and Grouse burns will act as a pair of defensive tackles blunting (somewhat) the eastern progression of the Motor Fire. There is no recent fire history north of the Motor so a run to Highway 120 is entirely possible.”

(Note added August 30, 2011: Please see my update on the Motor Fire in THIS blog entry!)

-Bill at

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