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Firefighters struggle to contain fire near Yosemite National Park

The wildfire began Friday night and was only 5 percent contained by Wednesday afternoon.
Inmate firefighters clear brush to create a fire break while battling the Ferguson Fire
Inmate firefighters clear brush to create a fire break while battling the Ferguson Fire in unincorporated Mariposa County, California, on Monday.Noah Berger / AP

Firefighters continued to battle a deadly California wildfire on Wednesday as the blaze spread, authorities said.

As of Wednesday, the Ferguson Fire, which had seized parts of the Mariposa county area for the past five days, had threatened about 108 homes and businesses and had more than 1,800 local and state firefighters deployed to address the area. The fire grew to more than 17,000 acres, officials of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said Wednesday.

The fire was relatively quiet overnight, the joint federal-state-local incident command unit said Wednesday afternoon, allowing crews to restore power to some areas.

Braden Varney, 36, a heavy fire equipment operator for Cal Fire, was killed Saturday, according to officials. Varney's body was recovered in Sierra National Forest with the assistance of California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 5.

"But he hasn't been alone," Cal Fire spokesman Jeremy Rahn told Sierra News Online, which covers Yosemite and the surrounding region/ "Cal Fire and our Honor Guard have been by his side the entire time."

The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 140 in the first few hours of the wildfire on Friday.

"One of the entrances to the park on Highway 140 route has been impacted, but Yosemite National Park is open, and we are not encouraging or discouraging anyone from coming," said Ranger Jamie Richards, Yosemite's spokeswoman.

The other three entrances to the park remain open, and Richards said there was no immediate impact in visitors.

"This may be the only time some families can come visit the park, so if they chose to come, we will welcome them and are ready to serve," she said.