Yosemite National Park Evacuated Amid Threat From Fire

Yosemite National Park Evacuated Amid Threat From Fire

Authorities have chose to close certain areas of Yosemite National Park as a massive wildfire continues to rage nearby.

Heavy smoke drifting in from the fire has forced park rangers to close hotels, campgrounds and restaurants in the Yosemite Valley and Wawona.

The Cranston Fire was the largest of at least five police believe were purposely set by a man whose auto was spotted at the starting point of the blaze in Riverside County, officials said.

Yosemite Valley, the scenic heart of the national park, was closed at noon Wednesday during the height of tourist season as smoke cast a pall on the region from a fire in the Sierra Nevada.

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Vivek Vishal, who came to the park with his family from Texas, had planned to stay until Thursday, but was forced to change course as the fire came closer.

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Over almost two weeks, flames have churned through 60 square miles (38,522 acres) of timber in steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park in Mariposa County. In 2016, a confirmed lightning strike tree was observed and resulted in a 3.2-acre surface fire, according to the National Park Service, which described the fire as "smoldering and creeping in brush, timber and duff, with moderate spread potential".

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"They're anticipating reevaluating on Sunday, but there is no given time on how long it's going to be shut down for", Eagan said.

Most people left the valley Tuesday, when officials reluctantly announced the closure, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

Brad Lyons and Courtney Richard, who had traveled from St. Louis and Tulsa to visit the park for the first time, stopped for photos Tuesday at Tunnel View, a popular lookout spot to marvel at at the 7.5-mile long valley and its famous landmarks, including El Capitan and Half Dome.

The park, however, had previously put out an alert for visitors, warning of smoky conditions including poor air quality and poor visibility.

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"Mandatory and advisory evacuations are in place in several areas but no homes have been damaged or destroyed", it said.

The blaze (Cranston Fire) is one of the 60 major wildfires burning in the United States this week. A firefighter was killed on July 14 when a bulldozer he was using to cut containment lines overturned, and seven others have been hurt.

"People are heartbroken", Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite / Madera County, told The Associated Press. "Some want to ride it out for a few days and see if they can get back in the park".

A mass of dry air moved over the fire Tuesday evening, keeping humidity levels exceptionally low throughout the night.

In the state's far north, a almost 4-square-mile (10-square-kilometer) wildfire has forced the evacuation of French Gulch, a small Shasta County community that dates to the Gold Rush.

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