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article imageGrowing Ferguson fire forces evacuation of Yosemite National Park

By Karen Graham     Jul 25, 2018 in Environment
El Portal - Yosemite National Park has been evacuated as firefighters desperately attempt to control enormous wildfires in a heatwave which has seen temperatures soar to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
On Tuesday, over 2,000 visitors were asked to evacuate Yosemite National Park because of heavy smoke settling in the area. The evacuation order, which takes effect at noontime Wednesday applies to all hotels, campgrounds and visitor services in Yosemite Valley and Wawona.
No one will be allowed back in the park until at least Sunday, according to park officials. The park, which sees over 4 million visitors a year is not under imminent threat from the Ferguson Fire burning right outside the western edge of the park in rugged terrain.
But officials say that as the Ferguson Fire continues to develop, it poses a threat to Yosemite National Park. The Ferguson Fire started July 13, and has burned more than 36,600 acres, or 57 square miles, Action News JAX reports, and since Tuesday has only been 25 percent contained.
Over 3,000 firefighters are battling the fire, along with 16 helicopters in oppressive heat that has set record temperatures around the Northern Hemisphere the past several weeks. The heat that is expected to continue until the end of August, is caused by persistent high-pressure systems.
The week in Southern California started out with temperatures approaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the extreme heat is forecast to last all of this week. Forecasters issued excessive heat warnings to much of Arizona, including parts of Grand Canyon National Park, and extended into areas of Southern California and Nevada.
The closing of Highway 41
The winding, mountainous, 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of California's State Route 41 that leads directly into the park is being closed for the first time in over 30 years. The last time Highway 41 was closed was in 1990 - during the A-Rock fire at Foresta and El Portal, which burned 17,700 acres, destroying several homes on the park.
Authorities decided to shut down the park to allow fire crews to perform protective measures — like burning away brush along roadways — without having to deal with park traffic.
Rich Eagan, a public information officer for the Ferguson Fire, said: "the reason why they're evacuating is because they're going to try to backfire that area and have the fire meet with the southeastern portion of the fire, so it's not because the fire is in the park."
“There will be some kind of a firing operation that takes place seven miles to get us to Wawona," Rocky Opliger, deputy incident fire commander, told Visalia Times-Delta. "And that’s critical, that we have all the folks working in there. We’ll have to shut down the 41, there’s no other way of implementing this plan."
"They're anticipating reevaluating on Sunday, but there is no given time on how long it's going to be shut down for," Eagan said.
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