Yosemite Valley, the crown jewel of Yosemite National Park, is set to reopen to tourists Tuesday after a three-week hiatus during its peak season because of an enormous and deadly wildfire raging in the area.
The fire, which has roared through 150 square miles of mostly forest and overgrown brush since igniting July 13, is the largest ever in the Sierra National Forest. Two firefighters died battling the blaze.
Yosemite Valley is a small fraction of the magnificent park that sprawls across more than 1,100 square miles. But it is home to iconic attractions such as Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome that are the top draw for visitors from around the world. The valley was closed to tourists July 25.
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Richards said smoke, from the local Ferguson Fire and others in the region, continues to roll through the park. California is struggling with more than a dozen major wildfires fueled by intense heat and high winds.
The Ranch Fire near Mendocino, 300 miles to the northwest, became the largest wildfire in state history. The fire has burned 460 square miles. And the Carr Fire, 300 miles to the north of Yosemite, has destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Both are about 60 percent contained.
More than 4.3 million people visited in 2017; more than 5 million in 2016. It’s unclear what impact the wildfires will have this year, but Reynolds was upbeat.