Large sections of Yosemite National Park will be closed "indefinitely" because of the ongoing wildfires raging throughout the region which have filled the iconic valley with hazardous smoke.
The nearby Ferguson fire has caused the closures of Yosemite Valley, El Portal Road, Wawanoa Road, Big Oak Flat Road, Glacier Point, the Mariposa and Merced Groves of Giant Sequioas, Tamarack Campground, Crane Flat Campground and the Wawona Campground.
"Fire managers are continuously assessing conditions in the area and will work directly with and will immediately advise park managers as conditions change and it becomes safe to reopen," said the National Park Service in a statement.
Firefighters remain committed to fully suppressing this fire and are actively engaged, taking action to limit the fire’s spread when it is safe to do so. The fire activity inside Yosemite National Park is dynamic. Over the past 48 hours, fire has impacted all of the roads used to access Yosemite Valley, burning dead and downed trees that can become very explosive and fall without warning. There are also significant terrain hazards for firefighters. These hazards, along with extreme fire behavior and frequent weather changes, have made this an extremely difficult fire fight. -Yubanet
The Ferguson fire has devastated 89,633 acres as of Sunday and was 38% contained. It is one of the 18 major fires raging throughout the state, sending smoke into Yosemite Valley and blocking views of scenic Half Dome and El Capitan as well as Yosemite Falls.
FIRE IN YOSEMITE: This is a time lapse from the Merced River Canyon and Turtleback Dome webcams from the National Park Service as the Ferguson Fire moves into the area. https://t.co/KYieCo2KeC pic.twitter.com/jIomY6rtiN— ABC30 Fresno (@ABC30) August 5, 2018
“In talking to people, no one has ever seen the smoke this heavy,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Los Angeles Times.
On Friday, evacuations were ordered due to "multiple hazards" along several roads in addition to power outages in Yosemite Valley. Two firefighters have died so far battling the blaze.
Ferguson Fire officials told FOX26 that all the power in Yosemite Valley was out, and there was no way for park employees to keep food or filter air due to the outages. -Fox News
Prior to the "indefinite" closure, visitors to Yosemite had been suffering through a choking haze for several days - while shifting winds brought varying levels of pollution throughout the daytime, according to US Forest Service air resource specialist Pete Lahm. Officials have been referring visitors to a website to check levels.
Cell service has been a challenge, but shot this video while a firefighter escorted us through the Wawona area. #Yosemite park officials confirm the fire has breached some parts of the National park. Crews are back burning in Wawona area. Fire can be seen in the distance. @ABC30 pic.twitter.com/q5YmO9y7Cm— Nathalie Granda (@NathalieABC30) August 3, 2018
"The whole park at this juncture has been hammered in smoke," Lahm told AP. "This area definitely has the highest levels (of air pollution) in the U.S. right now," he said, noting that several other parts of Northern California and southern Oregon had reached unhealthy levels amid the wildfires.
The Environmental Protection Agency's "Air Now" website on Friday recorded the Air Quality Index in Yosemite at a staggering 386, or "hazardous" — higher than the smog-choked city of Beijing, which had an "unhealthy" AQI of 119 at the same time.
Officials note that the AQI changes throughout the day and that the pollution from industrial dust, cars and emissions is different than wildfires burning through trees and grass but still unhealthy. On Sunday, the quality shifted back down to "unhealthy." -Fox News
Visitors can still see Yosemite's northern region, as approximately 1/3 of the park remains open - however the southern 2/3 of the park will remain off limits in what officials are calling the National Park's most extensive closure since 1997, when floods forced the park closed for two months.
Heartbroken at the indefinite closure of part of Yosemite due to the fires. Such an absolutely beautiful place of the Lord’s creation. pic.twitter.com/qaNipRjD5y— hann (@pickypants14) August 6, 2018