LOS ANGELES >> A section of Yosemite National Park will be closed for several days at the height of summer tourist season as crews try to stop a stubborn and growing wildfire from spreading, authorities in Northern California announced Tuesday.
Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds told a community meeting that a 20-mile (32-kilometer) stretch of State Route 41 will close beginning Wednesday at noon. The closure was expected to last through Sunday.
“Get yourself out of here if you can,” Reynolds told a crowd of about 60 people at the Yosemite Valley Auditorium, according to the Fresno Bee.
The section of the park, known as Yosemite Valley, is the centerpiece of the visitor experience, offering views of landmarks such as Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, Bridal Veil Fall, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. The glacial valley’s grand vista of waterfalls and shear granite faces has been obscured by a choking haze of smoke from a nearby wildfire.
Visitors were advised to “limit activity during the periods of poor air quality,” the park said in a statement. “Some facilities and services are closed or diminished.”
Over nearly two weeks, flames have churned through more than 57 square miles (147.6 square kilometers) of timber in steep terrain of the Sierra Nevada just west of the park. The fire was just 25 percent contained Tuesday morning.
Mandatory evacuations are in place in several communities while others have been told to get ready to leave if necessary.
More than 3,300 firefighters are working the fire, aided by 16 helicopters. One firefighter was killed July 14, and six others have been injured.
In the state’s far north, a nearly 4-square-mile (10.3-square-kilometer) wildfire has forced the evacuation of French Gulch, a small Shasta County community that dates to the Gold Rush.