Huge California wildfire spreads into Yosemite

A giant wildfire raging out of control spread into Yosemite National Park on Friday as authorities urged more evacuations in nearby communities where thousands have already been forced out by flames marching through the timbered slopes of the western Sierra Nevada.

The fire hit the park at the height of summer season, as officials geared up for a busy Labor Day weekend. It has closed some backcountry hiking but was not threatening the Yosemite Valley region, one of California’s most popular tourist destinations.

The spectacular valley carved by glaciers offers visitors such iconic sights as the Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations and Bridalveil and Yosemite falls.

“Right now there are no closures, and no visitor services are being affected in the park,” Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said. “We just have to take one day at a time depending on fire activity.”

The week-long blaze has spread to more than 165 square miles and was only 2 percent contained. It continued to grow in several directions, although “most of the fire activity is pushing to the east right into Yosemite,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Smoke blowing across the Sierra into the state of Nevada forced officials in several counties to cancel outdoor school activities and issue health advisories, especially for people with respiratory problems.

Authorities urged more evacuations in nearby communities where thousands have already been forced out by flames. The fire was threatening about 4,500 residences, according to the U.S. Forest Service. More than 2,000 firefighters were on the lines, and one suffered a heat-related injury.

— Associated Press

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