MARIPOSA (AP) — California firefighters worked in worsening heat Monday to contain a forest fire outside Yosemite National Park while colleagues mourned one of their own who was killed in a bulldozer accident on the fire line.
The Ferguson Fire had scorched nearly 53 square miles (137 square kilometers) of timber and brush in the Sierra Nevada west of Yosemite and was just 13 percent contained on its 11th day.
More than 3,000 firefighters worked in difficult terrain, with little or no access to roads, while a fleet of aircraft assisted.
Meanwhile, colleagues gathered in the Central Valley city of Modesto to mourn 36-year-old Braden Varney, a heavy equipment operator for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection whose bulldozer rolled over into a ravine July 14.
Bagpipes sounded and speakers told of his personal and professional life. He was said to have been able to operate anything that moved on tracks or wheels by the time he was in middle school. The dangerous mission to recover his body as the fire raged was also recounted.
Weather conditions were worsening, meanwhile, as a heatwave grew in much of California under high pressure over the West.
The National Weather Service warned of the potential for illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke Tuesday through Thursday as temperatures headed toward daytime highs in triple digits with little relief at night.
An excessive-heat warning went into effect Monday through Thursday for almost all of Southern California. Heat advisories were to go into effect Tuesday up the Central Coast and through the Central Valley into Oregon
The operator of California’s electrical grid called for statewide voluntary conservation of power due to the high temperatures reduced electricity imports, tight natural gas supplies in the Southern California area and the high wildfire risk.
The California Independent System Operator said the so-called Flex-Alert would go into effect from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The measure is aimed at conserving power in the hours when air conditioners are typically at peak use.