Yosemite Fire Eases; Part of Park Reopened
Undated (AP) _ Cool weather washed over much of fire-scarred areas of California on Friday and officials partially reopened Yosemite National Park, which had been closed to tourists for more than a week.
Yosemite spokeswoman Pat Tolle said Highway 120 reopened Friday into the high country over Tioga Pass, about 180 miles east of San Francisco, for the first time since Aug. 9. But the road leading into Yosemite Valley remained closed because of slides and burning snags.
The valley, the park’s most popular destination and site of Half Dome, El Capitan and other marvels, was not scheduled to be available to visitors until Monday, Tolle said.
National Park Service spokeswoman Claudine Gale said firefighters had nearly contained the 18,100-acre ″A″-Rock fire, of which 6,490 acres were in Yosemite and 11,610 acres in Stanislaus National Forest.
The other major Yosemite fire, the 5,280-acre Steamboat blaze, was contained Thursday.
In all, the California fires have burned about 270,000 acres, or more than 400 square miles, and destroyed 127 structures. The cost of fighting the fires has grown to about $45 million.
By Friday, most of the army of 15,500 firefighters amassed against the onslaught had been sent home.
Thunderstorms - which ignited nearly all the 1,300 fires across the state by spawning 37,532 lightning strikes in two weeks - are likely to recur when the cooling trend ends Monday, said Milo Radulovich, a National Weather Service fire expert.
″Once this pattern is over, we’re going to go back to where we were. It’ll be hot and dry, especially in September. It will be critical fire weather,″ Radulovich said.
Many of California’s worst wildfires have occurred in late August and September, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Karen Terrill.
A series of lightning-sparked fires that began Aug. 31, 1987 burned 740,000 acres and 38 homes. Ten firefighters died.
A blaze that at one time endangered 1,600 homes in Northern California’s Tehama County, the Finley fire, was 95 percent contained after burning 22,980 acres. It was expected to be fully contained by Friday.
Forestry Department fire investigators said the largest blaze of the siege, the 130,000-acre Campbell fire in Tehama County, may have been ignited by a pine tree branch brushing a high-voltage power line Aug. 6.
Since utilities are required by law to keep trees away from lines, state officials were considering action to recover about $10 million in fire suppression costs from the companies, including Pacific, Gas & Electric Co., which use the line.