Highway closed by fire near Yosemite to reopen

AP News
Posted: Aug 29, 2011 9:50 PM
Highway closed by fire near Yosemite to reopen

One of the main roads leading into Yosemite National Park will be reopened Tuesday morning after being shut down for the past five days due to a wildfire.

In addition, all evacuation orders in the area will be lifted at 9 p.m. Monday, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

"All evacuations ordered in the Yosemite are rescinded," Gediman said.

The fire is burning along the Highway 140 corridor in the Stanislaus National Forest leading to Yosemite and has scorched more than 4,775 acres _ or 7.5 square miles _ since it began Thursday. It was sparked when a motor home caught fire.

Campgrounds and trailer parks in the area had ordered closed, as well as a compound of about 70 homes leased to employees of Yosemite National Park.

Firefighters made enough progress on Sunday night and Monday, and all of the communities once in harm's way were no longer threatened, Gediman said.

The fire hasn't caused any major problems at Yosemite itself, and the park's well-known stunning vistas have not been obscured by smoke.

The fire is an anomaly in what otherwise has been a relatively quiet fire season in California.

"This year we have not had very many large and damaging wildfires," California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

"The combinations of cooperation from the weather and aggressive initial attacks have kept them small."

But with a change in seasons coming that usually triggers higher winds, the most critical time is ahead.

"When summer ends, people think the danger goes down, but it's really the opposite," Berlant said.

The steep canyon terrain has made it difficult for firefighters on the ground, Gediman said. It has blackened the scenic Merced River Canyon to the top of the ridges on both sides of the canyon.

Only five people sustained minor injuries, and no structures had been lost in the fire. More than 800 firefighters have saved 70 homes, two commercial properties and 35 outbuildings, National Park Service fire spokeswoman Kass Hardy said.

The school in nearby El Portal had also been closed because of the fire.