Deadly Wildfire Near Yosemite National Park Nearly Doubles in Size to 9,300 Acres

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The terrain surrounding Mariposa County’s deadly Ferguson fire is a virtual tinderbox primed for disaster, experts say.

On either side of the Merced River, south of Highway 140, hillsides are filled with trees that have been killed by five years of drought and a bark beetle infestation, according to state maps. The ground is carpeted with bone-dry pine needles.

As crews battle to keep the 9,366-acre blaze from spreading into these ready-to-burn hillsides, some worry it could unleash the destructive power of last year’s Detwiler fire, which burned for five months through dead forest and destroyed 63 homes.

“The dry needles help with ladder fuels and the burn upwards. When the needles fall, that puts fuel on the ground, pushing the fire through,” said Heather Williams, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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