Campsites and lodges emptied out after disappointed tourists were ordered to leave the heart of California’s Yosemite National Park by noon today (July 25), as firefighters battled to contain a huge wildfire just to the west that has threatened the park’s forest and sent up smoke that obscured grand vistas of waterfalls and sheer granite faces, according to the Associated Press.
Yosemite Valley will be closed until at least Sunday, along with a winding, mountainous, 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of California’s State Route 41 that leads in, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
At least a thousand campground and hotel bookings will be canceled – to say nothing of the impact on day visitors, park workers and small businesses along the highway, Gediman said. Rangers went to campsites one at a time to inform visitors of the closures. Hotels guests got phone calls and notes on their doors.
“This is the prime visitor season, so this wasn’t an easy decision to make,” Gediman said. “This was purely for safety’s sake.”
Officials were quick to point out that Yosemite wasn’t under imminent danger from the Ferguson Fire. Authorities decided on the closure to allow crews to perform protective measures such as burning away brush along roadways without having to deal with traffic in the park that welcomes 4 million visitors annually.
The last time the 7.5-mile-long (12-kilometer-long) valley was closed because of fire was 1990, he said.
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