An iconic section of Yosemite National Park will be closed for several days at the height of summer tourist season as crews try to stop the stubborn Ferguson Fire from spreading, authorities said at a community meeting Tuesday morning.

“Get yourself out of here if you can.” — Yosemite Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds

Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds told a crowd of about 60 people at the Yosemite Valley Auditorium that a 20-mile stretch of Highway 41 will close beginning Wednesday at noon.

The closure — from Wawona to the tunnel entry into Yosemite Valley — is expected to last through Sunday.

“Get yourself out of here if you can,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds took over the park’s superintendent in mid-March.

You can find the latest information at nps.gov/yose or by calling 209-372-0200.

Photo of Ferguson Fire meeting with residents

Residents listen during a community meeting at an auditorium in Yosemite Valley to share the latest information about the Ferguson Fire Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Yosemite National Park. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)

1,000 Rooms and Campground Bookings Affected

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, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

“We’re asking people here tonight to leave tomorrow morning,” he said. “And anyone that’s incoming tomorrow will get an email or phone call stating that their reservation is canceled.”

Gediman suggested valley visitors divert to Tuolumne Meadows, on Yosemite’s northern edge, or to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to the south.”There are wonderful places to visit in the region, so we’re asking people to consider alternative plans,” he said.
Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite/Madera County, said the regional visitors bureau has been relocating tourists statewide following the closure.”People are heartbroken,” she said. “Some want to ride it out for a few days and see if they can get back in the park.” Others want help finding places to stay away from Yosemite.

Yosemite Valley Last Closed in 1990

The last time the 7.5-mile-long valley was closed because of fire was 1990, he said.

Yosemite wasn’t under imminent danger from the Ferguson fire, officials were quick to point out.

Authorities decided on the closure to allow crews to perform protective measures like burning away brush along roadways without having to deal with traffic in the park that welcomes 4 million visitors annually.

Smoke Covers Yosemite Valley

The section of the park, known as 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.

The glacial valley’s grand vista of waterfalls and sheer granite faces has been obscured by a choking haze of smoke from a nearby wildfire.

Visitors were advised to “limit activity during the periods of poor air quality,” the park said in a statement. “Some facilities and services are closed or diminished.”

Photo of park ranger wearing mask because of bad air quality

Victor Woodley wears a mask due to smoke while taking entrance fees at the south entrance to Yosemite National Park,  Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)

Over nearly two weeks, flames have churned through more than 57 square miles of timber in the steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park. The fire was 25 percent contained Tuesday morning.

Fire officials said Tuesday that they are mounting an all-out effort to preserve Yosemite. They plan to do a burnout operation that is designed to prevent the fire from moving into Yosemite West.

Firefighters are being challenged by the very hot conditions and restricted access requiring heavy aerial support because there’s little to no access to roads, officials said.

Mandatory evacuations are in place in several communities while others have been told to get ready to leave if necessary.

More Than 3,300 Personnel Battling Wildfire

Officials said that 3,311 personnel are engaging the fire. Their supports consists 194 engines, 45 water tenders, 16 helicopters, 91 crews, and 52 bulldozers, officials said Tuesday.

There has been one fatality, Cal Fire bulldozer operator Braden Varney, and six injuries.

Evacuation Areas

The Ferguson Fire incident report issued Tuesday morning identified the following areas as being under mandatory evacuation:

— Incline Road from Foresta Bridge to the last BLM campground

— Jerseydale/ Mariposa Pines

— Cedar Lodge/ Indian Flat Campground

— Savage’s Trading Post

— Sweetwater Ridge

— El Portal Trailer Court

— Rancheria Flat – Government Housing

— Old El Portal

— Yosemite View Lodge

— Foresta

— Yosemite West

— Anderson Valley

— Old Yosemite Road

Ferguson Fire map

The Ferguson Fire map as of 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

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