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Yosemite employees return to work with hopes of reopening valley floor

SF Gate logo SF Gate 8/9/2018 Amy Graff

a pond with a mountain in the background: Smoke shrouds the Gates of the Valley viewpoint and Merced River in California�s Yosemite National Park, July 25, 2018. Thousands of tourists were evacuated on Wednesday as one of the country�s most iconic natural preserves was blanketed with thick smoke from a 38,000-acre fire that has burned for nearly two weeks. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Smoke shrouds the Gates of the Valley viewpoint and Merced River in California�s Yosemite National Park, July 25, 2018. Thousands of tourists were evacuated on Wednesday as one of the country�s most iconic natural preserves was blanketed with thick smoke from a 38,000-acre fire that has burned for nearly two weeks. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
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Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman returned to his office in the valley Wednesday for the first time since the national park was socked in with smoke from the Ferguson Fire and evacuated for firefighting operations on July 27.

"It looks blue," Gediman said. "It's still a little hazy and smoky but definitely clearer. I can see Yosemite Falls from the office. It's still very quiet.

"There are no visitors here. I saw two bears this morning and some deer, which was cool. There's definitely a lot of animals around."

Gediman says while the park reopened to employees, Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy, Wawona, Mariposa Grove, and Glacier Point remain closed until further notice.

"That's the proverbial $64,000 question," Gediman says. "When will the park open? I have a bunch of meetings this morning. I might know more today. We might have a ballpark date."

In the meantime, Highway 120 (Tioga Road) running across the park is open, and Tuolumne Meadows and most of the trails and campgrounds along this route are accessible from the west and east. The High Sierra Camps and the Tuolumne Meadows Campground and Store are open.

ALSO, 'It's a ghost town': Photos show an unrecognizable Yosemite

The popular destination, typically packed in summer with tourists taking selfies against a Half Dome backdrop, turned into a no man's land when large areas of the park were closed on July 27.

The Ferguson Fire started on July 13 is now 79 percent contained and has chewed through 95,104 acres between the town of Mariposa and the steep terrain just outside the border of the park's western edge. Officials say they hope to have the fire fully contained by August 15th.

The blaze has destroyed 10 structures and two firefighters were killed and 14 injured.

The last time the valley was closed because of a wildfire was 1990.

For more information on the more than dozen blazes around California, check out SFGATE's wildfire page

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