Published: Sun, July 29, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Heart of Yosemite to close as crews battle raging wildfire

Heart of Yosemite to close as crews battle raging wildfire

Burning its way across steep, rugged terrain with little or no road access, containing the fire has been hard and has left the splendid landscapes of Yosemite cloaked in hazy smoke.

The closure was heartbreaking for travelers who mapped out trips months in advance to hike and climb amid the spectacular views of cascading waterfalls and sheer rock faces.

Firefighters battling the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park increased containment of the blaze to 29 percent by Friday morning, but authorities reported that 45,911 acres have been consumed.

Michael Reynolds, the Yosemite National Park superintendent, told visitors on Tuesday to "get yourself out of here if you can".

The park announced that Yosemite Valley, home to such famous destinations as El Capitan and Half Dome, and Wawona were to be closed to all visitors.

When the National Park Service issued a temporary closure of the Yosemite Valley Floor and Wawona today, Wednesday, July 25, 2018 due to health and safety issues related to the Ferguson Fire, visitors were asked to be out of the area by noon.

Much of the fire, which has draped the park in heavy smoke, is burning in steep, rugged terrain west of the park with little to no access roads.

The blaze, known as the Ferguson Fire, has burned for roughly two weeks and encroached on the western boundary of the park, sending smoke into the Yosemite Valley where numerous park's most famous attractions are located.

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Officials were quick to point out that Yosemite wasn't under imminent danger from the Ferguson Fire. More than 3,400 personnel using 16 helicopters and 59 bulldozers were fighting the conflagration.

Yosemite Valley, which hasn't been closed because of fire for nearly 30 years, will be shut down until at least Sunday, along with a winding, mountainous, 20-mile stretch of California's State Route 41, the main artery into the park.

At least a thousand campground and hotel bookings will be cancelled - to say nothing of the impact on day visitors, park workers and small businesses along the highway, Gediman said.

As the heat from the fire and the current warm weather conditions continues to rise, smoke is dramatically reducing visibility in the area and the air quality is deteriorating.

Mandatory and advisory evacuations are in place in several areas but no homes have been damaged or destroyed.

"You go there and expect the fresh air and it was the total opposite of that", she said Thursday. On July 14, a firefighter was killed while six others have been reported as injured since the blaze began.

In the north, new evacuations were expanded to about 2,200 people in the wilderness recreation region near Redding that included Shasta and its historic former courthouse and ruins of brick buildings that make up Shasta State Historic Park.

As of July 25, wildfires had burned through 3.94 million acres (1.59 million hectares) this year, above the 10-year average for the same calendar period of 3.54 million acres (1.43 million hectares), it said.

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