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Smoky air from fires keep Yosemite shut; some roads within park reopen

Thick smoke over Half Dome at Yosemite National Park.
Thick smoke shrouds Half Dome over Yosemite Valley in a view from Sentinel Bridge over the Merced River last week.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite National Park closed temporarily Thursday and will remain closed because of smoky skies and hazardous air quality. Roads within the park, however, are open for visitors who drive through without stopping, according to a park statement Sunday.

Because of smoke from nearby fires, the air over the park will be in the “unhealthy to hazardous range over the next several days,” a prior statement said.

Yosemite will be making decisions on reopening with local and federal public health officials. “The park will reopen when conditions improve and allow for the health and safety of park visitors and employees to engage in regular park activities,” Sunday’s statement said.

Roads that drivers may use include Wawona Road (Highway 41), the El Portal Road (Highway 140), and the Big Oak Flat and Tioga roads (Highway 120). Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove roads remain closed along with lodging, restaurants, campgrounds and visitor centers.

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AirNow.gov showed a 681 pollution score for air in Yosemite Valley last week; hazardous air scores at 301 and above, with a scale starting at zero. The higher the air-quality index number, the more polluted the air. People breathing hazardous air should stay inside and avoid activity.

Amid California’s wildfires, 18 national forests and eight L.A. County parks remained closed because of extreme fire risk.

The biggest fire near Yosemite is the Creek fire, which started Sept. 4 and had grown to 278,368 acres as of Monday morning. It’s burning in the Sierra south of Yosemite. Also, two small lightning fires were burning in the southern part of the park.

Sequoia National Park in the western Sierra shut Tuesday because of proximity to the Sequoia Complex or SQF fire, described as a lightning blaze made up of the Castle and Shotgun fires, according to fire-reporting website InciWeb. It started Aug. 24. Sister park Kings Canyon also closed 5 p.m. Thursday because of smoke and hazardous air quality. It too will likely stay closed through the weekend.

All of California’s 18 national forests are closed because of extreme fire risk.


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