Wildfire forces closure of Yosemite National Park
National Park Service-decision gives fire fighters more freedom to aggressively attack on the Ferguson fire with dozers, engines and helicopters without worrying about the clogged roads and the saving of lives; William La Jeunesse reports from Los Angeles.
An explosive forest fire raging for more than three weeks in the vicinity of the iconic Yosemite National Park, the picturesque valley in a desolate landscape choked with smoke, with air quality as bad as in Beijing.
The Ferguson fire burning since July 13, and in that time has burned about 89,633 hectares of Sunday, with containment at 35 percent. The smoke from the inferno has filled the Yosemite Valley, blocking views of El Capitan and Half Dome in addition to the Yosemite Falls.
“In talking to people, no one has ever seen the smoke of this heavy,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Los Angeles Times.
In this Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 image of a Yosemite Conservancy webcam, smoke from forest fires obscures the Ahwahnee Meadow in Yosemite National Park, California.
(A Webcam by Yosemite Conservancy via AP)
On Friday, evacuations were ordered by “multiple hazards” along different roads in addition to power outage in Yosemite Valley. Two firefighters have died so far fighting with blaze.
Ferguson Fire officials told FOX26 that all the power in the Yosemite Valley, and there was no way for park workers to eat, or filter the air as a result of the failure.
CARR FIRE CLAIMS 7TH DEATH IN CALIFORNIA FIREFIGHTERS BATTLE FIRESTORM
The majority of the park’s signature attractions in the valley is covered by a suffocating haze for days, although the shift of wind means that the pollution and visual clarity changes throughout the day, according to Pete Lahm, air resource specialist for the U. S. Forest Service, that runs on the Wildland Fire air quality Response Program. Yosemite officials to refer visitors to the website to check for contamination.
“The whole park at this time was beaten up in smoke,” Lahm told the Associated press. “This area certainly has the highest levels of air pollution) in the U.S. right now,” he said, adding that other parts of Northern California and southern Oregon were also at unhealthy levels due to forest fires.
In July of this year 25, 2018 file photo, Hannah Whyatt poses for a friend to take a photo of the smoke from the Ferguson fire fills Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California.
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)
The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Air Now” web site on Friday included in the Air Quality Index in Yosemite at a staggering 386, or “dangerous” — higher than in China usually smog-choked capital, and who had an “unhealthy” AQI 119 in the same time.
Officials note that the AQI changes during the day and that the pollution of industrial fabric, automobiles, and emissions is different than fires burning through trees and grass, but still unhealthy. On Sunday, the quality shifted down to “unhealthy.”
‘FIRE TORNADO’ REACHED 143 KM / H AS IT CAUSED A PATH OF DESTRUCTION IN A SCORCHED CALIFORNIA
Not all of the park is closed; approximately the northern third of the Park has remained open. But the officials say that Yosemite ‘ s longest and most extensive closure since 1997, when floods close the park for two months.
Park officials have said that the valley may reopen again on Monday, depending on the circumstances.
In July of this year 25, 2018 file photo, a sign on the Highway 41 announces the closure of Yosemite National Park near Oakhurst, Calif.
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)
For visitors who want to enjoy the sights during the busy summer holiday season, the closures will be a blow to plan.
“I’m absolutely gutted we can’t go to Yosemite,” British tourist Caroline Lansell told the AP this summer on vacation to California with her husband and two children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed