A fast-growing wildfire near Yosemite National Park is filling the Tahoe Basin with smoke. Visibility at Lake Tahoe has fluctuated throughout the day as the Ferguson Fire continues to burn near Yosemite. The blaze doubled to 14 square miles and is largely burning out of control, the Associated Press reported.
Webcams from around the South Shore showed poor visibility in the afternoon. Visibility also was poor in Incline Village. Air quality in the region is currently unhealthy for sensitive groups. And conditions could worsen on Thursday, according to a Facebook post by the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
Amenities at Yosemite were open and visitors posted photos on social media as they hiked in smoky conditions, but the growing flames shut down a key route into the park at the peak of tourist season. A stretch of State Route 140 has been closed since the weekend, and drivers have been urged to find alternate ways into the park.
“All the campgrounds and the hotels are open — the shuttles are running,” Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said. “We have limited visibility, but aside from that, the park is open and fully operational.”
Time-lapse video by the Yosemite Conservancy, a group that supports the park, shows billowing smoke enveloping and completely obscuring Half Dome, an iconic rock formation. Park webcams showed other landmarks, such the El Capitan rock formation, concealed by thick plumes of smoke.
Businesses along the highway in Mariposa, a town popular with park visitors, have taken a hit, though the flames haven’t reached them. Gopal Das, owner of a Quality Inn, said at least 50 people have called to cancel their reservations since Sunday.
“We’ll lose that revenue,” Das said. “Since it’s a fire hazard, it is something beyond everybody’s control, and that means we won’t be able to charge them for late cancellations. It could result in thousands of dollars in losses.”
Inaccessible terrain and temperatures spiking to 95 degrees made it difficult for crews to slow the blaze that started Friday. More fire engines were expected to arrive to try to stop the flames from reaching more than 100 homes and commercial buildings that are threatened.
Evacuations were ordered over the weekend for the Yosemite Cedar Lodge, which is outside the park, and in nearby communities as flames crept up slopes and the air became thick with smoke.