Parts of Yosemite National Park Closed Due to Nearby Wildfire

Visitors to the affected areas of Yosemite are being asked to leave by 12 p.m. on Wednesday

Parts of Yosemite National Park Closed Due to Nearby Wildfire

Yosemite officials say Yosemite Valley and Wawona are expected to remain closed until July 29.

Scott McLean, a CalFire spokesman for the crews battling the blaze, said flames blew through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River and reaching Redding, a city of about 92,000 people - the largest in the region. Officials said Saturday that the Ferguson fire is churning northward, sending up smoke that has been obscuring valley views in the park.

Berger reported from Yosemite; Weber from Los Angeles.

The Ferguson Fire is now 53,646 acres and 30 percent contained. Along the western perimeter, no significant growth of the blaze took place as winds from the west continue to aid firefighters in containment.

This fire season is a busy one, Mashable reports, and screengrabs from park webcams show the reality of being outside: Iconic landmarks are hard to make out and, although the park is technically open, breathing in the air for prolonged periods of time has been "repeatedly tied to heart and lung diseases".

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Authorities arrested 32-year-old Brandon McGlover, who they say started the fire, along with several others this week.

Authorities ordered residents to leave Idyllwild and several neighbouring communities, home to about 12,000 people.

Officials were quick to point out that Yosemite wasn't under imminent danger from the Ferguson Fire.

William Blodgett of Idyllwild said he couldn't get home because of the flames and had to wait along with others at a gas station in nearby Mountain Center - until the fire hopped a highway and began to move in his direction.

With the ongoing closure of Highway 140, park visitors can exit the park via Highways 120 and 41.

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To the northeast, the Ferguson Fire forced the heart of the Yosemite National Park to close on Wednesday after the blaze burning just to the west jumped fire lines overnight, pouring thick smoke into the valley and forcing visitors to pack up camp and flee.

Yosemite Valley and Wawona will close at noon Wednesday, and visitors and campers staying in those areas are being asked to leave by noon.

Over almost two weeks, flames have churned through more than 57 square miles (148 square kilometers) of timber in steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park. Any reduction in those numbers will hurt businesses in California's Mariposa County whether they are directly tied to the park or not, as many sit on or near the Yosemite-bound roads and entrances that are now closed to accommodate firefighting efforts.

Park areas that are closing until at least Sunday include Yosemite Valley, where visitors can see famed rock formations like El Capitan and Half Dome, and Mariposa Grove, an area containing more than 500 mature giant sequoia trees.

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