Published: Sun, July 29, 2018
Research | By Jennifer Evans

California authorities order evacuations as crews battle raging wildfire

California authorities order evacuations as crews battle raging wildfire

The heart of Yosemite National Park was closed on Wednesday as a fierce wildfire burning just to the west jumped fire lines overnight, pouring thick smoke into the valley and forcing visitors to pack up camp and flee.

Vehicles leave Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, as the Ferguson Fire burns nearby.

The Cranston Fire was the largest of at least five police believe were purposely set by a man whose vehicle was spotted at the starting point of the blaze in Riverside County, officials said. Officials decided on the closure to allow crews to perform protective measures such as burning away brush along roadways without having to deal with tourist traffic.

Brandon N. McGlover, of Temecula, was booked Wednesday on suspicion of setting five fires, including one that threatened about 600 homes in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles, state fire officials said.

A visitor photographs Half Dome on Tuesday as smoke from the Ferguson Fire is visible in Yosemite National Park, a day before authorities closed parts of it. Vivek Vishal and his family came from Texas and planned to stay until Thursday, but as the deadly Ferguson Fire inches closer, they now have to make new plans.

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

Yosemite National Park said the Yosemite Valley, home to numerous cliffs and waterfalls that make the area famous, would shut at noon on Wednesday.

Lushmeadows residents north of Triangle Road from Vista Lago to East Westfall Road, and all side roads to the north, as well as the north side of East Westfall Road to Old Mill Road, and all side roads to the north, began receiving mandatory evacuation notices around 5 a.m. Evacuation orders later expanded to the Ponderosa Basin subdivision.

The blaze (Cranston Fire) is one of the 60 major wildfires burning in the United States this week.

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

Vishal says while he understands it for safety reasons, the closure is still disappointing.

The last time the 7.5-mile-long (12-kilometre-long) valley was closed because of fire was 1990, he said.

Over almost two weeks, flames have churned through 60 square miles (38,522 acres) of timber in steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park in Mariposa County.

During the period of closure, some of the reported 3,000-plus firefighters and 16 helicopters will conduct protective measures including brush burning along roadsides and in other areas to protect the now unaffected areas of the forested region.

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

Crews now have 29-percent containment on the 45,911 acre blaze.

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

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