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Yosemite economy feeling the heat from Washburn Fire

South Gate Brewing Company's outdoor seating area - which is normally packed with visitors - was nearly empty.

CALIFORNIA, USA — The Washburn Fire saw hundreds of visitors and residents evacuated from the nearby community of Wawona on Friday and also saw the grove and southern entrance of the park closed. 

The rest of Yosemite remained open, but it has been blanketed in heavy smoke at times. As Michael and Marley Wolfe of Greenville made their way to the National Park, they were caught off guard by the looming smoke over Oakhurst.

"As we got closer, it was like a volcano was going off. As we got closer, we realized it was a fire," said Michael Wolfe.

Meanwhile at the popular South Gate Brewing Company, the restaurant was filled mostly with locals. Their outdoor seating area which is normally packed with visitors was instead nearly empty.

"We're still getting some tourism, but I would say the smoke and the fire - because nobody can enter - is definitely affecting it," said Victoria Glanzer, of South Gate Brewing Company.

While the Madera County side of the Yosemite entrance is closed, Brooke Smith with Visit Yosemite emphasized that people still can get into the park.

"Three entrances of the national park remain open at this point. So from here in Oakhurst, it's about a 20-minute detour, additional driving, to reach Yosemite Valley through the other closest entrance," Smith said.

At the historic Yosemite Mt. Sugar Pine Railroad, the fire has also put the train off track - depending on the weather.

"If it's over 150 AQI, we're not open, and so it's really unfortunate because of the park and the south entrance, one of the busiest in Yosemite," said Scott McGhee, with the Mt. Sugar Pine Railroad.

However, the smoke isn't an issue for everyone. The Barr family, who was visiting from Sydney, Australia, said they weren't bothered too much by the smoke.

"Yeah, drive around that's the only really issue," said Dave Barr. "Obviously, the smoke is blowing the other way, so its still beautiful."

"It's been very fun. But it's still hot though," Olivia Barr added.

At the Sierra Sky Ranch Resort, there have been cancellations, but the general manager wants people to know they are open for business.

"The rest of the park is open. The Valley floor is open, so we encourage people still to come out," said Karen Edwards.


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