Yosemite Valley to Reopen as Fire Threat Weakens

Dead trees line a clearing as a helicopter battling the Ferguson fire passes behind in the Stanislaus National Forest, California, on July 22, 2018.  (Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

Yosemite National Park officials say they will reopen Yosemite Valley — which has been closed off to all visitors for weeks due to the Ferguson Fire — on Tuesday morning.

Park administrators also plan to reopen the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to the public on Monday at 9:00 a.m.

"We'd like to express our sincere gratitude to the firefighters and incident command teams for their great efforts in suppressing the Ferguson Fire," Yosemite National Park superintendent Michael Reynolds said in a statement.

"This is truly a historic and unprecedented event in park history, and we are thrilled to welcome back visitors to Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove," he said.

Officials say Glacier Point Road and Wawona Road from Yosemite Valley to the Wawona area of the park will stay shut down for at least another week due to ongoing fire activity and firefighting operations. The Hetch Hetchy area will also remain closed due to smoke impacts from the fire, but officials say they expect to reopen it soon.

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Park administrators are warning visitors that there's still active fire and smoke in the area, and people should drive with extreme caution. They say road delays are possible due to fire activity and ongoing firefighting operations, and there will be limited visitor services as the park resumes normal operations.

Officials initially shut down Yosemite Valley on July 25 due to unhealthy air quality caused by smoke from the Ferguson Fire. They also closed off other areas of the park — including Wawona and the Mariposa Grove — on the same day in order to house firefighting operations.

KQED first reported that the massive wildland blaze had entered park boundaries last Thursday. At one point last Friday, the blaze forced firefighters stationed at the Badger Pass ski and snowboard area of the park to shelter in place as flames jumped Highway 41 within the park.

On Sunday, park officials announced that Yosemite Valley and other parts of the park would remain closed indefinitely due to increased fire activity.

Now, firefighters have a better handle on the blaze and are progressing toward full containment. As of Friday morning, the fire was 95,544 acres and 80 percent contained.

Two firefighters have died battling the Ferguson Fire and 15 others have suffered injuries.

Cal Fire Heavy Equipment Operator Braden Varney, 36, died on July 14 after his bulldozer overturned in a steep ravine.

33-year-old Brian Hughes, captain of an elite firefighting squad stationed within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, was killed on July 29, when he was struck by a falling tree.

Fire officials say they hope to have the blaze fully contained by August 15.

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