Wildfire in Yosemite expands and obscures scenic views

Wildfire in Yosemite expands and obscures scenic views
The wildfire threatening Yosemite National Park is still burning its way into the huge US tourist attraction despite dogged efforts by thousands of firefighters using planes and bulldozers.

A massive wildfire that has charred the northwest edge of Yosemite National Park in California has sent smoke into a scenic and previously unaffected area, obscuring views of popular landmarks on Saturday for tourists who visited the area.

The smoke from the fire, which broke out two weeks ago, spread to the area during a holiday weekend that in the past years has seen the park fill with visitors.

Shifting winds brought heavy smoke from the so-called Rim Fire to Yosemite Valley, an area famed for its towering granite rock formations, waterfalls and pine forests, according to the park's website and footage from cameras posted on the site that showed smoky conditions.

Yosemite Valley has been open to visitors and largely smoke free in recent weeks, but a park official said smoke began wafting into the area late on Friday. It also reached the Wawona area to the south, the park's website said.

The Rim Fire had charred nearly 223,000 acres (89,000 hectares) by late Saturday. Most of the damage was in the Stanislaus National Forest which spreads out from Yosemite's western edge.

The blaze has blackened about 6 percent of Yosemite's wilder backcountry, said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.

The Rim Fire was 40 percent contained on Saturday afternoon, up from 35 percent earlier in the day.

"We are moving in the right direction," said Trevor Augustino, spokesman for the US Fire Service at Rim Fire command center.

Flames early on Saturday were heading toward two groves of the park's famed sequoia trees, Jarvis said.

"This is not a catastrophe for Yosemite National Park," he said in a phone interview after surveying the affected areas."These trees are very old and it's not the first fire they've ever seen."

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