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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
— Yosemite West
— Anderson Valley
— Old Yosemite Road