The rest of Yosemite National Park remains opens to campers and visitors
Officials hope to reopen Half Dome in a couple of days
"It's still a great time to visit Yosemite," spokesman says
"Seeing the plume of smoke ... put us in complete awe," visitor says
Yosemite National Park has closed its famous Half Dome as a 4,532-acre wildfire burned nearly uncontrollably Wednesday, officials said.
The park in California remains open to the public, who may be able to see heavy smoke in the morning, which clears by afternoon, said Scott Gediman, a National Park Service spokesman at Yosemite.
The fire grew from 700 acres on Monday.
“Except for some smoke, it’s really not affecting people’s visits,” Gediman said. “Hiking trails are still open, camp grounds are full, and it’s still a great time to visit Yosemite.”
Several hiking trails remained closed, and the park service wasn’t issuing its usual 300 permits a day to hikers seeking to climb Half Dome, Gediman said.
Officials are working to reopen Half Dome in “a couple of days,” he said.
The so-called Meadow Fire began July 19 because of “hot shot fires” caused by lighting, Gediman said. As of Wednesday, firefighters contained only 10% of the fire, he said.
Sharlene Simonson, 24, a photography student at the City College in San Francisco, was on top of Sentinel Dome with her family on Saturday, and they saw a small line of smoke wafting near Half Dome, she said Wednesday.
They then witnessed the fire engulf Half Dome on Sunday, she said.
“Seeing the plume of smoke the next day completely overpower the glory of Half Dome put us in complete awe at its extending reach,” said Simonson, who posted photos of the fire on her CNN iReport page.
The park service hopes to have the peak reopened in the next couple of days, Gediman said.
On Sunday, the rapid spread of the fire caused nearly 100 hikers and backpackers to be evacuated from the park, and an additional 85 hikers and climbers were evacuated by helicopter from the summit of Half Dome, the park service said.
Gediman wants park-goers and prospective campers to know that Yosemite remains open and that most of the areas that people come to visit are still functioning.
“I feel confident the fire activity is diminishing,” he said.
The fire is within Little Yosemite Valley between Half Dome and Mount Starr King on both sides of the Merced River, the park service said.