The popular Yosemite Valley and Wawona areas of Yosemite National Park will close to visitors at noon Wednesday because of impacts of the Ferguson fire that has been burning outside the park since July 13.
The National Park Service made the announcement Tuesday, noting all campgrounds, hotels and visitor services will be temporarily shut because of the fire burning in Sierra National Forest on the west side of the park.
The park isn’t expected to reopen until Sunday at the earliest.
“Since the fire began … several other park facilities and roads have been closed due to fire impacts and the need to support firefighting operations,” the statement said.
Visitors already in the park will need to leave by noon Wednesday.
Current closures include Glacier Point Road, Bridalveil Creek Campground, the Wawona Campground and the much-loved Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, which reopened in June after a multi-year upgrade.
Park officials said Highway 140, El Portal Road, Glacier Point Road and Arch Rock Entrance are all closed.
The east entrance of Yosemite, where you can access Tuolumne Meadows and the back-country on Highway 120, remains open as of Tuesday afternoon.
Smoke from wildfires can “irritate your respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Even someone who is healthy can get sick if there is enough smoke in the air,” its website says.
Its advice on keeping yourself safe includes staying indoors, of course, but further says you should not burn candles or your fireplace. It also notes that masks that workmen use to avoiding breathing in large particles, such as sawdust, won’t protect you. To find out what will, see its Respirator Fact Sheet.
The forecast for the park for Yosemite Valley is in the mid- to upper 90s, the National Weather Service reported.
A trifecta of factors appears to have exacerbated the Ferguson fire, according to How Stuff Works: “fuel, weather and topography.”
Indeed, an earlier L.A. Times story said:
“The terrain surrounding Mariposa County’s deadly Ferguson fire is a virtual tinderbox primed for disaster, experts say.
“On either side of the Merced River, south of Highway 140, hillsides are filled with trees that have been killed by five years of drought and a bark beetle infestation, according to state maps. The ground is carpeted with bone-dry pine needles.”
The fire, which started July 13, burned 36,587 acres and is 25% contained, according to InciWeb.
Braden Varney, a heavy equipment operator with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, died early July 14 on the fire lines. Hundreds attended his funeral Monday.