Labor Day vacationers undeterred by Yosemite wildfire, but visitors likely down


There will be no Labor Day holiday for fire crews battling a massive California wildfire, but Yosemite National Park officials expect that while the number of day trippers visiting the park will be down, hotel and camping reservations will still be at a premium over the holiday weekend.

Around 3,000 cars a day are expected to pass through gates, instead of the nearly 5,000 that might typically show, as tourists continue to monitor the 315-square-mile Rim Fire, a park spokesman told The Associated Press.

But most of the missing will be day tourists, not people who have waited months and even years for a campsite along the Merced River or a room at the historic Ahwahnee Lodge.

"We've had minimal cancellations, and when we do we fill them immediately,” Scott Gediman said. “The campsites are full and there are plenty of people, but because of the publicity, we're slower." 

But in nearby Groveland, a scenic Gold Rush community, business has been decimated, after the town was cut off by the closure of Highway 120, which the fire tore through early on, during its 13-day rampage.

The road carries 2.2 million cars into the park every year.

"I laid off all my girls," Laura Jensen, owner of the Firefall Coffee Roasting Co., told the AP. "This has totally drained us. It's like winter when we slow down and take care of the locals, but this should be our busiest time of the year."

On Friday, Cal Fire reported the fire was 35 percent contained but had grown to 213,414, making it the fifth-largest fire in state history. The blaze started Aug. 17.

Fire officials told NBC Bay Area they expect to fully surround the fire in three weeks, although it will burn for much longer than that.

"We continue to get line around this fire," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant told the affiliate. "It's not nearly as active as it was last week."

Four people have been injured, and the price tag is now at $47 million spent on fighting the wildfire. At least 4,500 structures remain threatened, as do the power and water utilities for San Francisco and the Bay Area.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

An El Dorado Hills firefighter takes a break from battling the Rim Fire, Wednesday. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images