More evacuations as fire rages near Yosemite

Jan Cross
July 29, 2018

Yosemite National Park's most popular visitor destination is shuttering as of Wednesday, as a large wildfire continues to sweep through thousands of acres nearby.

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.

The few remaining campers in Yosemite Valley are packing up tents and other gear before a closure goes into effect to clear the area for firefighters battling a wildfire near Yosemite National Park.

Officials were quick to point out that Yosemite wasn't under imminent danger from the fire.

The Cranston Fire was one of several wildland blazes that erupted on Wednesday in Riverside County, east of the city of Hemet, that authorities said appeared to have been ignited by the same suspect.

Yosemite Valley, the scenic heart of the national park, was closed at noon Wednesday during the height of tourist season as smoke cast a pall on the region from a fire in the Sierra Nevada. Guests can get refunds for bookings inside the evacuation zone including Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Big Trees Lodge, Half Dome Village and Housekeeping Camp.

On Tuesday, people were asked to evacuate Yosemite National Park because of heavy smoke settling in the area.

California Wildfires
A firefighter watches as the Cranston fire burns 1,200 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest

The Carr Fire, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Sacramento, had blackened about 20,000 acres (8,100 hectares) early Thursday, three times its last-reported size a day ago.

Over almost two weeks, flames have churned through 60 square miles (155 square kilometers) of timber in steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park.

The so-called Carr Fire was just one of several wildfires that have dispatched firefighters to all corners of the state amid an oppressive heat wave. The fire was just 25 percent contained Tuesday morning.

The Cranston Fire, which has destroyed at least five homes as it rages at the edge of the San Jacinto Mountains west of Palm Springs, prompted evacuation orders for 3,200 people living in Idyllwild, Cedar Glen and Fern Valley.

One firefighter was killed on July 14, while six others have been injured. Executive Director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, Lisa Mayo, comments, "We know that visiting Yosemite is very special and for some visitors, this is their trip of a lifetime, so we are trying to do everything we can to give them the best experience possible under the circumstances". Visitors are encouraged to check the park's website before travel.

"When we saw that the visitor's center was closed, we knew it had to be bad", Lyons said.

Gov. Kate Brown declared a statewide emergency last week to make helicopters and troops available, and the southern half of the state is under air quality advisories.

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