Fast-spreading California wildfire nears Yosemite park

July 22 (Reuters) - A raging California mountain blaze that has already killed one firefighter grew over the weekend and bore down on Yosemite National Park, prompting the closure of some smoke-choked campgrounds and roads at the popular tourist destination.

The so-called Ferguson Fire, which started on July 13 in the Sierra National Forest, grew by more than 10 percent in size over the weekend, sending smoke billowing for miles (km) and causing air quality alerts for parts of the San Joaquin Valley, officials said on Sunday.

"Air quality and visibility have been severely affected by smoke. Visitors should expect limited visibility and should be prepared to limit outdoor activities during periods of high concentration," Yosemite National Park said on its Twitter feed over the weekend.

Parts of the Ferguson Fire were about 20 miles to 30 miles (30-50 km) south and southwest of the park as of Sunday. Nearly 3,000 firefighters were battling the blaze that has burned through nearly 30,500 acres (12,340 hectares) of bone-dry terrain and was 6 percent contained as of Sunday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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California's Ferguson Fire bears down on Yosemite
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California's Ferguson Fire bears down on Yosemite
TOPSHOT - A air tanker drops retardant while battling the Ferguson fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near Yosemite National Park, California on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke from the Ferguson fire hangs over the Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal, Yosemite National Park, California, on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames from the Ferguson fire crest a hill in Stanislaus National Forest, near Yosemite National Park, California on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters drive along a fire break as the Ferguson fire burns in Stanislaus National Forest, near Yosemite National Park, California on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists wear masks while visiting Yosemite National Park, California, as smoke from the Ferguson fire fills the air on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters from the Big Bear Hotshots create a firebreak as the Ferguson fire approaches in the Stanislaus National Forest, near Yosemite National Park, California, on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A air tanker drops retardant while battling the Ferguson fire in the Stanislaus National Forest, near Yosemite National Park, California on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A helicopter drops retardant on flames while battling the Ferguson fire in Stanislaus National Forest, near Yosemite National Park, California on July 21, 2018. - A fire that claimed the life of one firefighter and injured two others near California's Yosemite national park has almost doubled in size in three days, authorities said Friday. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the so-called Ferguson fire had spread to an area of 22,892 acres (92.6 square kilometers), and is so far only 7 percent contained. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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Crews have been struggling to build fire lines around the blaze because flames are burning in steep canyons that are difficult to access with heavy equipment.

Firefighter Braden Varney was killed shortly after the fire broke out when a bulldozer he was using to cut a fire break overturned. Varney was the 10th U.S. wildland firefighter to die in the line of duty this year, according to National Interagency Fire Center data.

The fire is one of about 50 major wildfires burning in the United States over the weekend that have so far scorched an area of about 1.2 million acres (485,620 hectares). Most are in western states with blazes also in Central Texas and Wisconsin, according to the InciWeb tracking service.

As of July 22, wildfires had burned through about 3.65 million acres (1,477,100 hectares) so far this year, above the 10-year average for the same calendar period of 3.43 million acres (1,388,070 hectares), according to the National Interagency Fire Center. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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