With two fires south of Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park gaining strength, officials announced Tuesday morning that the road would have to be temporarily closed to ensure safe firefighting operations.
The road would remain open solely to park staff, and no estimate was given on when it could reopen to the public.
By the latest updates, the South Fork Fire, located about a mile east of Wawona, was at 5,191 acres and 44% contained. Two helicopters and 101 firefighting personnel are assigned to handle the blaze.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
North of the South Fork Fire, closer to Glacier Point Road, the Empire Fire was estimated at 4,125 acres and 40% contained. Because it is in a fire-adapted wilderness area, crews have allowed it to burn naturally, officials said, which creates healthier ecosystems.
Alongside the temporary closure of Glacier Point Road, the following trails and areas are closed until further notice:
☆ Swinging Bridge Trail on both the north and south sides of the Merced River’s South Fork.
☆ Chilnualna Falls Trail from the Wawona Trailhead to the top of Chilnualna Falls.
☆ The two-mile connecting trail from Chilnualna Falls to the intersection of Buena Vista and Buck Camp trails.
☆ Off-trail areas around the South Fork Fire Area.
☆ All climbing routes on or around Wawona Dome.
☆ Bridalveil Campground.
As a result of both infernos, smoky conditions remain a regular sight both in and around Yosemite, officials said.
In the park, areas like Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and El Capitan have been smoky for days. Outside Yosemite, Fish Camp, Oakhurst, and Mariposa have also felt the impacts of the haze, especially in the early morning and evening hours.
Those with sensitivity to smoky conditions are advised to consult with their physicians, and remain inside with the windows closed.
Despite the smoggy skies, Yosemite can still be entered from all entrance roads, including Highway 41, officials said.
High temperatures have been causing both fires to be more active, officials said.
On Monday afternoon, intense heat from the South Fork Fire was strong enough to create pyrocumulus clouds that could be seen from Oakhurst.
For more information on the South Fork Fire, dial (209) 379-1493, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5502/, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.