A mandatory evacuation order is in effect for the community of Wawona as the South Fork Fire in southern Yosemite National Park grew slightly to 2,903 acres Friday into Saturday, the park service said.
All areas east of Highway 41 along Chilnualna Falls Road and Forest Drive, including the Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel), must evacuate by 4 p.m., the Yosemite National Park Service said. A Red Cross Shelter is set up at Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp.
Wawona, which has a population from 1,000 to 2,000 at any given time, is about one and a half miles from the fire. It began Sunday and is now 10 percent contained.
Spot fires popped up Friday and the fire grew because of downdraft winds from thunderstorms, the park service said. Full containment is not expected until Sept. 3.
The air quality index in Wawona is “very unhealthy” and will jump to “hazardous” in the early afternoon hours, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Air specialists will answer questions about the effects of the bad air quality on residents at a community meeting at Tenaya Lodge at 6 p.m. Saturday. The meeting had been scheduled at the Wawona Community Center but was changed because of the evacuation, the park service said.
For now, the area east of Highway 41 on Forest Drive and Chilnualna Falls Road remains closed. The fire continues to threaten the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, U.S. Forest Service lands and a radio and telecommunications site at Wawona Point.
Thirteen hand crews, seven helicopters, 11 engines and three air tankers are being used to fight the fire, along with 528 personnel.
This story will be updated.