Firefighters Frantic to Gain Control of Brush Fires Across California Ahead of Next Heat Wave

With another heat wave on the horizon, firefighters battling blazes on grassy slopes and deep in forest canyons across the state were in a frantic fight to gain ground.

The biggest battle was going on outside Yosemite National Park, where more than 2,700 firefighters have been lugging hoses and hand tools up rugged forest terrain alongside bulldozers while water- and fire retardant-dropping aircraft roar overhead trying to contain the Ferguson fire.

The fire started July 13 and claimed a firefighter’s life in its first day when a bulldozer tumbled down a hillside during the building of a defensive line. The flames have pushed south and east along a south fork of the Merced River, but along the way they’ve crawled over ridge tops and into groves of dead wood east of Yosemite.

“What we have is a sea of standing dead timber,” said Jacob Welsh, a spokesman assigned to the blaze. “Whenever a tree snag gets fire in it, it could fall down. That catches others on fire. That’s the challenge.”

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