Wildfire near Yosemite surges, prompts evacuations

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm •  Published: August 22, 2013
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Yosemite Valley is clear of smoke, all accommodations and attractions are open, and campgrounds are full, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. During summer weekdays, the park gets up to 15,000 visitors.

"The fire is totally outside the park," Gediman said. "The park's very busy, people are here. There's no reason that they should not come."

The Yosemite County Tourism Bureau based in Mariposa has been helping tourists displaced by the fire to find new accommodations in other park-area towns, said director Terry Selk.

In Yellowstone National Park, five wildfires have been burned about 18 square miles of mostly remote areas on the 25th anniversary of the infamous 1988 fires that burned more than 1,200 square miles inside Yellowstone, or more than a third of the park.

The vast areas that burned that year remain obvious to anybody who drives through. The trees in the burn areas are a lot shorter.

This summer's fires haven't been anywhere near that disruptive. The biggest fire in Yellowstone, one that has burned about 12 square miles in the Hayden Valley area, for a time Tuesday closed the road that follows the Yellowstone River between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village.

Anybody who needed to travel between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village faced a detour through the Old Faithful area that added 64 miles to the 16-mile drive.

By Wednesday, the road had reopened. Later that day, half an inch of rain fell on the fire.

Park officials had been making preliminary plans to evacuate Lake Village, an area five miles south of the fire with a hotel, lodge, gas station and hospital. Any threat to that area appeared less likely now.

A few trails and parking areas along the Yellowstone River remained closed in case the fire flares up again and the area needs to be evacuated, park officials said.

Smoke from the fires has been blowing into Cody, a city of about 10,000 people 50 miles east of Yellowstone, for the past couple weeks.

If anything, though, visitors have been more curious about this year's fires than threatened, said Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce.

"People from the East Coast or the Midwest where this isn't common are very interested, certainly, in the way the fires look, the way the smell," he said. "There's a lot of educational opportunities along with it."

This year's Yellowstone fires are being allowed to burn to help renew and improve the ecosystem.

A lightning-sparked fire in a remote area of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park burned more than 615 acres in June but had no impact on tourists — other than backcountry trail closures — or tourism-dependent towns adjacent to the park.

Crews allowed the Big Meadows Fire to burn beetle-killed spruce before containing the blaze. The fire was overshadowed by wildfires that destroyed nearly 500 homes near Colorado Springs and a 170-square-mile complex of fires on national forest land in Colorado's southwestern mountains.

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Associated Press writers Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Jim Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.