Hot, dry weather and a nagging high-pressure system are hampering efforts by nearly 1,400 firefighters to battle a 26-square-mile fire near Yosemite National Park that threatens more than 100 homes and businesses.
The high-pressure system over the West has kept smoke bottled up, limiting the use of firefighting aircraft and endangering people with health conditions.
“Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside it’s probably not a good time to go for a run. And it’s probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors,” Mariposa County officials said.
The Ferguson Fire, which killed a California firefighter last week, has scorched 19 square miles of dry brush and timber between the town of Mariposa and Yosemite National Park, roaring through steep terrain on the park's western edge.
The blaze, which has grown to more than 17,000 acres, is being fed in large part by thousands of dead trees that were killed by an epic drought that has gripped California for several years.
While the fire has not yet hit the popular national park, and all park trails remain open, the threat has prompted some tourists to cut short their visits.
Alyssa Sandoval of Pollock Pines, California, planned to leave the park Tuesday. But she left a day early after spending a couple hours in a smoke-filled valley.
“The smoke was horrible, it was horrible. My mother got sick, my husband’s eyes were stinging, burning,” she said. “I’ve never seen the valley like that. It was smoked out. You didn’t even know you were in Yosemite.”
Air quality monitors showed particulate levels in the park at “very unhealthy” levels, meaning everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion or risk serious health effects such as respiratory problems.
"Smoke may be heavy at times; visitors should be prepared to limit any strenuous outdoor activity during the periods of high concentration," Yosemite National Park said on Facebook. Park officials also advised would-be visitors to look at live webcam shots of the area.
There is a possibility of thunderstorms Thursday, which could bring bring much-needed rain but also erratic winds that could create containment problems for fire crews.
Contributing: Associated Press