LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. Forest Service investigators have determined that a motor vehicle is to blame for sparking the massive, deadly California wildfire that prompted a nearly three-week closure of Yosemite National Park’s best known landmarks.
Specifically, the Ferguson fire was ignited on July 13 when superheated pieces of a catalytic converter came into contact with dry, roadside vegetation along Highway 140 in the Sierra National Forest west of the park, the Forest Service said in a press statement.
The vehicle believed to have caused the blaze, which originated around sunset near Savage’s Trading Post, has not been identified, but officials are asking anyone with information to contact the Forest Service.
The Ferguson fire, ranking as one of the largest that raged across California this summer, charred nearly 97,00 acres (39,250 hectares) in the Sierra and Stanislaus national forests and adjacent Yosemite National Park.
Two firefighters perished in the blaze and at least 19 others were injured. More than 3,000 personnel were assigned to fight the fire, which was not declared fully contained until Aug. 22.
The fire sent choking smoke into the national park at the height of the summer tourist season. Yosemite Valley, by far the most heavily visited area of the park, was shut for almost three weeks, taking a major toll on the area’s local economy.
Authorities have said that motorists are responsible for many of the wildfires that erupt along California roadways, often by driving vehicles over or parking on dry grass and brush or dragging metal parts along the ground.
Reporting by Steve Gorman