Part of Yosemite Park Slated to Open Today After Fires
Undated (AP) _ Rangers cleared the way for the return of visitors to a section of Yosemite National Park today more than a week after the park was closed by forest fires for the first time in its 100-year history.
Overall in California, crews mopped up after major blazes that scorched more than 400 square miles statewide. In Idaho and Washington, firefighters corralled stubborn fires that erupted after a rash of lightning storms.
California state firefighter Kenneth E. Enslow, 20, was to be buried today. He suffered head injuries while fighting a blaze in the Mendocino National Forest.
Sections of Yosemite served by Tioga Pass Road, a highway across the Sierra Nevada, were to open at midday today for the first time since Aug. 9. The park’s most popular destination, Yosemite Valley, will probably not reopen until Monday, rangers said.
″They’ve got to mop up and make sure they’re completely out and winds don’t start up again,″ said National Park Service spokesman Mark Rabenstein. ″The fire crew actually touches the ground to make sure it is out.″
By this morning, California firefighters had virtually surrounded most of the major fires among the 1,300 that broke out since Aug. 3.
″The siege is winding down, but it’s definitely not over. We still have a lot of firefighters on the lines and a lot of mop-up to do,″ said California Department of Forestry spokeswoman Karen Terrill.
In Yosemite, 23,576 acres of timber land have burned. Of the two biggest fires in the 757,000-acre park, one was 100 percent contained this morning by fire lines, the other 95 percent contained, Rabenstein said.
Two other Northern California fires that charred more than 144,000 acres of timber and brush were declared 90 percent contained Thursday night.
The wave of fires burned nearly 262,000 acres, or about 409 square miles statewide, and destroyed 127 structures. There have been 37,532 recorded lightning strikes since Aug. 3.
The cost of battling the blazes, with 15,500 firefighters involved, was estimated at $45 million.
In Washington, cooling weather helped firefighters contain the state’s largest wildfire, a 604-acre blaze in the rugged Cascade Mountain wilderness, said Corky Broaddus, spokeswoman for Wenatchee National Forest.
In Idaho, 250 reinforcements joined the fight against a 1,500-acre fire in Boise National Forest. Air tankers pounded the blaze with chemical retardant, and authorities said the blaze could be contained by Sunday evening. The arrival of cooler temperatures and a rainstorm with only a limited amount of lightning overnight aided firefighters in the state, they said.
In Alabama, a 50-acre forest fire forced the evacuation of 10 houses near Lillian and sent four firefighters on loan from Florida to a Pensacola, Fla. hospital with heat exhaustion.