To the northeast, the Ferguson Fire forced the heart of the Yosemite National Park to close on Wednesday after the blaze burning just to the west jumped fire lines overnight, pouring thick smoke into the valley and forcing visitors to pack up camp and flee.
Officials forced visitors to leave areas of the park Wednesday due to public health and safety concerns as the wildfire blackened more than 36,000 acres near the park. No visitors will be allowed in the valley beginning at 12 p.m. PDT because park officials will be closing the area's main road, Highway 140. A video camera inside the park Tuesday showed dark skies and black clouds pushing through trees and open spaces.
This has resulted in at least 1,000 campground and hotel bookings being cancelled.
Park spokesman Scott Gediman says the exodus was orderly and visitors are understanding of the decision to close.
"People have been very understanding", Gediman said. Apart from the Valley Floor, there are plenty of awe-inspiring vistas and activities in and around the park to encourage visitors not to give up their trip of a lifetime to Yosemite National Park.
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That fire, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Sacramento, had blackened 20,000 acres (8,100 hectares) as of Thursday, three times its size a day earlier.
Lambert and his wife, Theresa Ho, were briefly evacuated last week when smoke cast an unhealthy pall over the home where they live upstairs and rent the downstairs to tourists. "We're gonna lose half of July and half of August probably".
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 has been enveloped by a choking haze of smoke from the Ferguson Fire.
Authorities ordered residents to leave Idyllwild and several neighboring communities, home to about 12,000 people.
As of Tuesday evening, firefighters contained 25% of the Ferguson Fire, which has ravaged the Yosemite area for almost two weeks.
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A firefighter died and seven others have been hurt combating the blaze, which was 27 percent contained as of Thursday morning.
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.
Daina Miller of Tucson, Arizona, had wanted to visit Yosemite for years, but instead her family spent a few hours breathing foul-smelling smoke Tuesday before retreating to their RV for the night.
"When we saw that the visitor's center was closed, we knew it had to be bad", Lyons said.
In the north, new evacuations were expanded to about 2,200 people in the wilderness recreation region east of Redding that included Shasta and its historic former courthouse and ruins of brick buildings that make up Shasta State Historic Park.
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