Yosemite Valley will temporarily shut down beginning this afternoon as firefighters battle heavy smoke and flames from the Ferguson Wildfire near the National Park, officials say.
The closure—which is supposed to last through Sunday, July 29—will also affect all hotels, campgrounds, and visitor services in Yosemite Valley and Wawona, Calif. No visitors will be allowed in the valley beginning at 12 p.m. PDT because park officials will be closing the area’s main road, Highway 140.
“Get yourself out of here if you can,” Yosemite National Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds told evacuees, tourists, and park employees inside the Yosemite Valley Auditorium on Tuesday, The Fresno Bee reported.
The evacuation will likely cost Yosemite the business of thousands of visitors, as nearly 600,000 people flock to the park in July on average. Only the month of August, which sees 600,349 visitors, is busier.
The wildfire began earlier this month and quickly burned more than six square miles of land on the western edge of the park. Wildfire damage is often costly in the United States, especially in California, which sustained more than $3 billion in wildfire damage last year.
Visitors who have not yet left the park can expect to face “very unhealthy” air quality and visibility due to heavy smoke conditions caused by the Ferguson Fire, according to officials. The blaze is growing due to “receptive fuel and warm dry conditions.”