Washburn Fire: Yosemite’s Highway 41 entrance now closed, Wawona ordered to evacuate

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) – Crews are battling a wildfire that has shut down part of Yosemite National Park and has now closed the Highway 41 entrance into the park.

The Washburn Fire is spreading quickly near the lower portion of the Mariposa Grove and has burned 466 acres as of 5 pm Friday.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the community of Wawona and the Wawona Campground.

The Highway 41 entrance to the park is now closed, so people evacuating Wawona will need to head north towards the Yosemite Valley.

Shelter is available at the Mariposa New Life Church, located at 5089 Cole Road.

Park officials say the Mariposa Grove and Mariposa Grove Road are closed until further notice.

The fire sent smoke billowing across the skies above Yosemite on Friday, a sight visitors described as eerie. Many continued their vacation, but it was not the typical Yosemite experience.

“You come out here to nature to get away from the busy-ness and there’s airplanes flying, there’s helicopters flying by,” said Dennis and Shellie Farrington, who were visiting from Arizona.

Officials say the first call came in just after 2 pm on Thursday.

Crews jumped into action with a full initial attack, working through the night.

On Thursday and Friday, hundreds of firefighters on the ground cut lines and planes in the air dropped retardant, all to contain the flames.

National Park Service crews were also out wrapping the towering Sequoia trees, hoping to protect them from flames if the fire gets close.

Park officials warned drivers not to get distracted by the smoke.

“We have wildlife and we have people everywhere – just really pay attention to speed limits, look for firefighters, look for equipment, look for animals on the road and just be safe,” said Yosemite Fire Communication Education Specialist Nancy Phillipe.

Officials say the cause of the fire is under investigation.

NOTE: The video above is from an earlier story and will be updated.

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