Heart of Yosemite national park to close as crews battle blaze

A plane against the Ferguson Fire for the passing of the sun setting over unincorporated Mariposa County, California., in the vicinity of Yosemite National Park. California authorities shut down Yosemite Valley for several days as crews try to stop a stubborn and growing wildfire spread into Yosemite National Park. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Yosemite Valley is the centerpiece of the visitor experience, with views of landmarks such as Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, Bridal Veil Fall, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.

The glacial valley of the grand vista of waterfalls and shear granite faces, where throngs of tourists are awe struck by waterfalls and towering granite features such as El Capitan and Half Dome, however, was obscured by a choking haze of smoke from a nearby fire.

Firefighters try to corral a huge forest fire on the west side of Yosemite National Park, which is cast in a smoky pall and threatened the park, the woods, the officials said on Tuesday.

“You get here if you can,” Michael Reynolds of the National Park Service against a group of refugees, tourists and park employees Tuesday morning, The Fresno Bee reported.

Yosemite Valley will be closed for at least four days to begin on the afternoon of Wednesday, together with a twisty, hilly, 20-mile stretch of the State Route 41, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

At least a thousand camping and hotel bookings to be cancelled — not to mention the effect on the day visitors, park employees and small businesses along the highway, Gediman said.

“We ask the people here tonight will leave tomorrow morning,” he said. “And everyone who is incoming tomorrow will be an e-mail or a phone call with the message that the booking is cancelled.”

The last time that the 7.5-km-long valley was closed because of fire was in 1990, ” he said.

Yosemite was not under imminent danger of the Ferguson fire, the officials were quick to point out.

The authorities agreed to the closure to crews for the conduct of protective measures, such as the burning away brush along roads, without having to deal with the traffic in the park that welcomes over 4 million visitors per year.

Visitors are advised to “restrict activity during the periods of poor air quality,” the park said in a statement. “Some facilities and services are closed or diminished.”

About almost two weeks, the flames have churned through more than 57 square miles of timber in the steep slopes of the Sierra Nevadas just west of the park. The fire was 25 percent contained Tuesday morning.

Mandatory evacuations in several communities, while others have told to get ready to leave if necessary.

More than 3,300 firefighters are working the fire, assisted by 16 helicopters. A firefighter was killed July 14, and six others have been injured.

Gediman proposed valley visitors divert to Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite’s northern outskirts, or to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in the south.

“There are beautiful places to visit in the region, so we are asking people to consider alternative plans,” he said.

In the state far in the north, a nearly four-square-kilometre wildfire has forced the evacuation of French Gulch, a small Shasta County community that dates back to the Gold Rush.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Frank Miles is a journalist and editor, covering sports, tech, military and geopolitical for He can be reached at

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