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A message from Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean

As fire season progresses, another significant fire is threatening the communities around Yosemite. I want to update you on the two active fires near the park.

The Oak Fire began just a few days ago near Midpines, in Mariposa County — 30 miles southwest of Yosemite Valley. Currently at 32% containment as of Wednesday, July 27, evacuation orders have affected over 3,800 residents, including National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, and other gateway community staff. At least 21 structures have been destroyed. Smoke is in the air (as you can see on our Half Dome webcam) and air quality and visibility throughout the park will continue to be impacted.

At 8:00 P.M. on Tuesday, July 27, Highway 140 was reopened through Mariposa County to Yosemite National Park, and is expected to remain open contingent upon fire conditions. If you’re traveling to Yosemite, expect smoky conditions. We recommend checking the air quality at your destination before you travel and avoiding strenuous activity when the AQI has reached unhealthy levels. If you’re visiting the park soon, you should also bring an N95 mask to protect yourself from smoky air.  We’re watching the situation closely and hoping that the fire can be contained as quickly, and as safely as possible.

While the Washburn Fire is currently at 91% containment as of Wednesday, it remains an active fire. Thankfully,  no structures were lost, and the monarch sequoias were spared — though the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Wawona campground remain closed. And, though Highway 41 is open, there is no stopping or parking from the park’s southern boundary to Wawona. The wilderness area north of Wawona opened Monday, July 25, and the fire advisory has been lifted for the wilderness area. The community of Wawona (including the Wawona Hotel and vacation rentals) will reopen to the public on Thursday, July 28, at noon.

As is the case across the state of California, safely and effectively managing fire is also an important component of Yosemite’s management. After a long history of fire suppression tactics, Yosemite’s scientists and resource experts now agree that prescribed burns are a critical part of Yosemite’s future. You can read more about the history and future of Yosemite’s fire management or learn about the projects that Yosemite Conservancy donors are supporting this year – such as work to assess prescribed burn benefits and track trends in forest health.

As the Oak and Washburn fires continue to burn, we’ll be monitoring air quality and adjusting our programs as needed to ensure the safety of our participants, staff, and volunteers. We share your concern for these two fires and their effect on Yosemite, its inhabitants and surrounding communities and will continue to communicate as more information becomes available.

Thank you for your support for Yosemite and the Conservancy.

Sincerely,

Frank Dean
President, Yosemite Conservancy