YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (AP) — National Park officials are extending the closure of the scenic Yosemite Valley and other areas due to heavy smoke from a massive nearby wildfire.
The Ferguson Fire, which started burning in Mariposa County on July 13, has continued to grow, consuming 57,846 acres. The fire is only at 33 percent containment and is expected to continue burning until mid-August.
The Yosemite Valley, the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias and other park areas closed July 25 and were tentatively scheduled to reopen on Friday. The closure was also put in place to allow crews to perform protective measures such as burning away brush on roadways.
Park spokesman Scott Gediman said Tuesday the closure will be extended “at least through Sunday due to continuing poor air quality.”
The closures have been a huge blow to the park during the peak summer season and to thousands of tourists, who book months in advance at the parks campsites and hotels.
Gediman said it was the longest closure at Yosemite since 1997 when floods closed the park for over two months.
Earlier Tuesday, two summer camps near Yosemite National Park popular with San Francisco area families decided to evacuate due to smoky weather conditions from the massive wildfire.
The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department said Tuesday it has temporarily closed Camp Mather, a campground for families near the park, due to poor air quality from nearby fires. The camp is scheduled to reopen Sunday if conditions improve.
Parks spokeswoman Sarah Madland said about 450 visitors to Camp Mather and 70 staff were affected, including 350 visitors asked to leave Tuesday and 100 who had canceled last week due to the air quality. All are to receive full refunds.
Camp Tawonga, a sleep-away camp for children west of Yosemite, decided to evacuate 300 campers and 200 staff Tuesday and also hopes to resume camp on Sunday.
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