A fire near Yosemite National Park that claimed the life of a California firefighter has grown to more than 13,000 acres and is only 5% contained, officials said Tuesday.
The park announced that Yosemite Valley, home to such famous destinations as El Capitan and Half Dome, and Wawona were to be closed to all visitors. This means all campgrounds, hotels and visitor services in the areas will be shut.
The closure is expected to last until Sunday.
Visitors were told to leave the affected areas by noon. “Yosemite National Park is experiencing high fire danger, along with continued hot and dry weather patterns,” fire officials said.
“Get yourself out of here if you can,” said Michael Reynolds, the Yosemite National Park superintendent, on Tuesday.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, near Wawona, is also closed. It reopened in June after a three-year restoration project. Several other park sites and roads have been closed because of the fire impact, according to a statement from Yosemite National Park.
The Ferguson Fire, raging west of the park, had killed one Cal Fire worker and burned 41,576 acres as of Wednesday.
The fire began July 13 in Merced River Canyon. Braden Varney, 36, a heavy fire equipment operator, died the day after the blaze began. The bulldozer he was operating to make a fire line rolled over, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations.
Six firefighters have been injured as they’ve battled the blaze that is now 26% contained, according to fire authorities. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The fire has been burning in steep, rugged terrain with little to no access roads, posing challenges for firefighters. Nearly 3,500 personnel are working to contain the fire and several surrounding areas remain under mandatory evacuation orders.
“The Ferguson Fire is burning in very rough terrain with high firefighter exposure due to very hot conditions and limited access,” according to fire authorities.
The scenery at Yosemite has been blanketed in hazy smoke, as seen on the park’s webcams, at the height of the summer season when the park is swarming with visitors. Yosemite boasts sequoias, waterfalls, granite cliffs and peaks, red metamorphic rock and hundreds of trails, making it one of the most visited national parks in the country.