YOSEMITE (AP/CBS) — Winds were pushing wildfires burning around two crown jewels of the National Park Service toward the doorstep of a century-old lodge and into an ancient grove of sequoias.
The fires outside of California’s Yosemite National Park and in Montana’s Glacier National Park are not only disrupting Labor Day travel plans, they are threatening the areas’ natural and manmade icons.
Outside Yosemite, it’s not clear whether a 15-square-mile fire has damaged any of the 2,700-year-old trees in the Nelder Grove. Officials say winds from a thunderstorm pushed the blaze into the grove of giant sequoias. The Nelder Grove holds more than 100 giant sequoias, including one of the world’s largest, the 24-story-high Bull Buck sequoia.
Historic cabins within the grove have been wrapped for protection from the fire, according to the National Park Service.
Highway 41 is closed in both directions from south of Wawona to Sky Ranch Road. Yosemite visitors should use Highway 49 to Highway 140 or 120 for entrance to the National Park. The Summerdale, Big Sandy, and Nelder Grove Campgrounds on the Sierra National Forest are closed.
A 14-square-mile fire that consumed a historic Glacier backcountry chalet last week is moving toward Lake McDonald Lodge, a focal point for park visitors. Rangers have evacuated tourists, laid hoses and sprinklers around the hotel and are standing guard as the wind drives the blaze down the mountainside toward the lake’s shores.
Elsewhere, a fire burning in the hills above Gilroy has charred more than 100 acres since it started Sunday night. Residents were urged to keep their windows closed because of the smoke.
Another blaze burning in a rural Northern California community of Helena has destroyed 72 homes.
Fire information officer Bill Paxton said Monday the fire had forced about 2,000 people to evacuate.
Helena is about 150 miles south of the Oregon border on the edge of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
The fire has burned 14 square miles (36 kilometers) and is 14 percent contained. Paxton said crews were improving containment lines, and they appeared to be holding the blaze.
Fire officials, meanwhile, said 32 homes were destroyed by a separate fire in rural Butte County. That’s up from the initial assessment of 20 homes.
In Southern California, the so called ‘La Tuna’ fire near Los Angeles that destroyed four homes and threatened hillside neighborhoods is no longer burning actively.
Still, Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said Monday that wind conditions could reignite the blaze, so fire officials were not reducing the number of firefighters at the scene.
A sudden gusty series of rainstorms allowed officials Sunday to call off evacuations for Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale and allow all of the 1,400 people who had fled to return to their homes.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the fire the largest in the city’s history and had declared a local emergency. The fire has burned nearly 11 square miles (28 kilometers) and was 30 percent contained.
Fire officials had initially said three homes were destroyed but upped that number Monday.
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