Heart of Yosemite to close as crews battle raging wildfire

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Homes burned as a fast-moving wildfire forced an entire Southern California mountain town to evacuate Wednesday, while tourists emptied from the heart of Yosemite National Park so firefighters could battle a growing blaze nearby.

"Yosemite National Park is experiencing high fire danger, along with continued hot and dry weather patterns", fire officials said.

Officials will continue to monitor fire and smoke conditions, and the park is set to reopen on Sunday.

Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds told a community meeting that a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of State Route 41 will close beginning Wednesday at noon.

The Ferguson Fire, raging west of the park, had killed one Cal Fire worker and burned 41,576 acres as of Wednesday.

The heart of Yosemite National Park remained empty the day after campers and hotel guests were evicted so firefighters could try to keep the state's largest fire from entering the park almost two weeks after it was sparked.

Visitors are advised to "limit activity during the periods of poor air quality", the park said in a statement.

The fire is one of several across California amid a statewide heat wave.

While a portion of Yosemite National Park is temporarily closed to visitors, over 50% of the Park is still open to explore.

Yosemite fire news
Yosemite fire news Smoke from the Ferguson fire hangs over the Yosemite View Lodge

Lambert says his disappointed guests include a father-daughter duo who planned a graduation trip a year in advance.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Wednesday that the blaze has burned 60 square miles (155 square kilometers).

The Ferguson fire has raged for almost two weeks, burning through over 57 square miles (148 square kilometers) of woods in the Sierra Nevada just west of the park.

In the north, new evacuations were expanded to about 2,200 people in the wilderness recreation region near Redding that included Shasta and its historic former courthouse and ruins of brick buildings that make up Shasta State Historic Park.

Smoke is obscuring the valley's grand vistas of waterfalls and shear granite faces.

Burning its way across steep, rugged terrain with little or no road access, containing the fire has been hard and has left the splendid landscapes of Yosemite cloaked in hazy smoke.

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

The fire has been burning for almost two weeks in the Sierra National Forest, and has killed one firefighter who died July 14, when the bulldozer he was operating overturned.

News of the closures follows similar precautionary measures taken in other areas of the park, including the closure of roads, the Bridalveil Creek Campground, the Wawona Campground and the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, which are all off-limits to visitors due to the fire, or to aid with firefighting operations.

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