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Yosemite tourists race to beat Rim fire road closure

As officials prepared Wednesday to close the main east-west route through Yosemite National Park to help firefighters gain access to the massive Rim fire, time was of the essence for a couple of tourists from Scotland.

Earlier in the morning, Alan and Garcia Williamson were rushing to cram several days of sightseeing into a few hours and make it across Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes before the planned midday closure of Tioga Road. Firefighters planned to use the road through the park as they confronted the Rim fire, which had grown to roughly 281 square miles.

The Rim fire has so far burned about 43,310 acres in the northwest area of the park.

But even with the seventh-largest wildfire in California’s history approximately 25 miles away, there was little effect other than traffic obstacles for visitors to the popular Yosemite Valley.

The Williamsons, a married couple who traveled to see Yosemite as part of a monthlong vacation in the United States and Canada, said they didn’t consider canceling their plans.

“We just did our research and found out where the fire was,” Garcia Williamson said.

Though the staff at their hotel told them they had been fielding phone calls with cancellations all day, she said, “it’s not as bad as people think. So we’re going to press on.”

Now in its 12 day, the Rim fire has burned an estimated 187,466 acres overall. It has continued to move deeper into the park, and evacuations have been ordered for residents in the fire’s path south of California 120 and north of Old Yosemite Road.

Communities north of the blaze, along the California 108 corridor from Tuolumne City to Pinecrest, also remained under evacuation orders.

Ground crews had planned to work overnight Tuesday to build containment lines on the northern flank of the fire.

The Williamsons said friends and relatives have sent text messages to ask if the couple is in danger. They said they have reassured those concerned that they are far from the flames.

“They think the whole park is ablaze,” Alan said under clear skies as they took in the view of Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View scenic overlook.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

Twitter: @tonybarboza

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