Yosemite National Park Wildfire Forces Evacuations and Business Closures

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Authorities have chose to close certain areas of Yosemite National Park as a massive wildfire continues to rage nearby. Park officials announced closures to the Yosemite Valley and Wawona areas, as well as the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, effective noon on Wednesday, July 25.

Much of Yosemite has been evacuated because of concerns over the more than 38,500-acre Ferguson Fire, which was just 25 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.

A 32-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of igniting a blaze that forced the closure of Yosemite National Park, burned five homes and prompted evacuation orders for an entire mountain town in Southern California, officials said.

Yosemite National Park said the Yosemite Valley, home to numerous cliffs and waterfalls that make the area famous, would shut at noon on Wednesday. Almost 3,500 personnel are working to contain the fire and several surrounding areas remain under mandatory evacuation orders.

Yosemite - the fifth-most visited United States national park in 2017 - is open all year but three-quarters of visitors come from May through October, peaking at more than a million across July and August.

At least 2,000 people visited the park Tuesday, park officials confirmed, adding that they would close Highway 41, which leads to the center of the popular park. One firefighter was killed in the blaze July 14, and six others have been injured. Rangers went to campsites one at a time to inform visitors of the closures. "I've never been evacuated before". 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.

Yosemite fire news
Yosemite fire news Smoke from the Ferguson fire hangs over the Yosemite View Lodge

In a matter of hours, the so-called Cranston Fire grew to 7.5 square miles (19 square kilometers).

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

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.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Wednesday that the blaze has burned 60 square miles (155 square kilometers).

Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite/Madera County, said the regional visitors bureau has been relocating tourists statewide following the closure. "Some want to ride it out for a few days and see if they can get back in the park". Tuesday marks the first time in 28 years that the park has been closed because of fire - the last time having been during the A-Rock fire at Foresta and El Portal, which burned 17,700 acres, destroying several homes on the park, according to the Associated Press.

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