Heart of Yosemite to close as crews battle raging wildfire

Northern California wildfire forces evacuations

Northern California wildfire forces evacuations

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.

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.

New evacuations were ordered Wednesday for areas in the path of the Ferguson Fire burning near Yosemite National Park.

Parks officials say visitors can expect to see smoke from the Ferguson Fire in the Sierra National Forest north of the parks, as well as the Horse Creek Fire in the Mineral King area of the parks.

A section of Yosemite National Park will be closed for several days at the height of summer tourist season as crews try to stop a stubborn and growing wildfire from spreading, authorities in Northern California announced Tuesday.

The last time the 7.5-mile-long valley was closed because of fire was 1990, he said.

Wawona to Yosemite Valley areas of the national park will be closed starting Wednesday, with Sunday as the earliest possible reopening.

"The only buildings left standing. right now are the fire station and a couple of restrooms", said Fire Chief Mike Hebrard of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds told a community meeting that a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of State Route 41 will close beginning Wednesday at noon.

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The park, however, had previously put out an alert for visitors, warning of smoky conditions including poor air quality and poor visibility.

He says the park isn't under imminent danger from the nearby fire.

The fire has been burning in steep, rugged terrain with little to no access roads, posing challenges for firefighters. The glacial valley has been enveloped by hazy smoke from the Ferguson Fire.

The Yosemite fire has burned since July 13 and killed a California firefighter.

That blaze had forced 3,200 people to evacuate in resort communities including Idyllwild, Mountain Center and Lake Hemet as it destroyed five structures and threatened 2,100 homes, the agency said.

The fire quickly burned almost 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber.

"People are heartbroken", Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite / Madera County, told The Associated Press. The fire was just 25 percent contained.

Scott McLean, a CalFire spokesman for the crews battling the blaze, said flames blew through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River and reaching Redding, a city of about 92,000 people - the largest in the region.

Yosemite boasts sequoias, waterfalls, granite cliffs and peaks, red metamorphic rock and hundreds of trails, making it one of the most visited national parks in the country.

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