Yosemite tourism officials say fire shouldn't detract visitors


A view of Yosemite Falls from the Yosemite National Park webcam.As firefighters continued to battle the raging Rim Fire at the northwestern edge of Yosemite National Park on Tuesday, the park's tourism industry was working to ensure travelers that the rest of the park remains open and almost unaffected by the blaze.

"There's very little impact to the park," said Jarrod Lyman, director of media and communications for the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. "The vast majority of the park is unaffected by this fire."

The portion of the fire that is in Yosemite doubled to about 64 square miles but remained in backcountry on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. The fire had reached 20% containment on Tuesday, up from 15% on Monday, and the main attractions in the nearly 1,200-square-mile park remain open.

"The major fires are in the west part of the park, leaving the eastern portions open for business (at least for now)," Dan Austin of Austin-Lehman Adventures wrote in an email. "Coming in from the west, we saw little or no impact shy a couple of smoky days."

Tauck said it hadn't received any cancelations yet for its Yosemite tours. "We're continuing to operate with no changes to any departures to date, although we're certainly monitoring conditions there carefully," a Tauck spokesman said.

All roads leading to Yosemite are open except for Highway 120 West from Groveland to Big Oak Flat Entrance. White Wolf Lodge, Hodgdon Meadow Campground and Hetch Hetchy Road have been closed as a precaution, according to a statement from Delaware North Cos. Parks and Resorts, which provides lodging, dining and other services within Yosemite National Park.

"The fire is approximately 20 miles from Yosemite Valley, and the majority of the park is relatively smoke-free. Yosemite Lodge and the other hotels in the park are not affected," a DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite spokeswoman said.

Yosemite tourism officials are also pointing concerned travelers to the Yosemite webcams available on the park's website. There they can view up-to-the-minute images of popular park sites like Yosemite Falls and the Half Dome. 

Despite efforts to get the word out that Yosemite is open for business, there is some concern that travelers have and will cancel their Yosemite trips due to news of the raging flames.

The 11-day-old blaze had expanded to about 280 square miles on Tuesday, AP reported.

"We're hoping there's not too much of an impact," said Lyman. But, he noted, "There may still be a few people here or there that are compelled to cancel."

The fire comes just as the nation gears up for one of its busiest travel periods, the last long weekend of summer, Labor Day Weekend. "This is the last hurrah of summer," Lyman said.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.


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