Firefighter killed in growing blaze near Yosemite

SAN DIEGO — A fire sparked Friday near Yosemite National Park turned deadly over the weekend, claiming the life of a firefighter and continuing to rage Monday.

Braden Varney, 36, a heavy fire equipment operator, was killed battling the fire, said officials with the fire protection agency CAL FIRE. Varney leaves behind his wife, Jessica, daughter Malhea, 5, and son Nolan, 3.

California Gov. Jerry Brown extended his “deepest sympathies” and ordered capitol flags lowered to honor the firefighter.

As of Monday morning, 500 fire personnel were struggling to contain the fire in Mariposa County, along the western edge of Yosemite National park. So far, it has scorched 9,000 acres and remains just 2% contained, the US Forest Service said.

The short term forecast does not call for the weather to work in the firefighters’ favor, with conditions expected “to remain hot and dry for the next seven days, with isolated thunderstorms possible over the Sierra Crest,” according to the USFS.

Despite the blaze, Yosemite National Park remains open, but the fire has forced the closure of part of Highway 140, one of the western entrances to the park. USFS officials said visitors will need to find alternate routes into the park.

The Ferguson Fire is just one of several fires currently burning across the state, which has faced years of devastating wildfires resulting in deaths and causing billions of dollars in damage.