A heavy mist inundates the viewing area at Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park, Calif., on April 24, 2012. / Mark Crosse, AP
Forest fires near two of the nation's most popular national parks have forced evacuations and closed roads.
A large fire near Yosemite National Park in Northern California was only 5% contained Wednesday afternoon. Three fires burning in the Wyoming part of Yellowstone National Park have closed several roads into the park.
They're among 40 forest fires in the West.
Near Yosemite, hundreds of people were evacuated from camps and the town of Groveland as the Rim fire reached 16,200 acres.The fire spread across Highway 120, one of the main roads leading to Yosemite National Park The fire threatened as many as 2,500 homes in the area according to InciWeb, a federal fire information website.
Firefighters and equipment are streaming into Yellowstone National Park to fight three active fires there, said Al Nash, park spokesman. "They're setting themselves up so that should the fire advance, they'll be in position to protect people and roadways," he said. At least 150 firefighters were there and more on the way.
The largest of the three is the Alum fire, which has reached 7,500 acres. It is burning southwest of Yellowstone Lake and is near enough to the boardwalk through the Mud Volcano area that park officials have stationed fire crews nearby, Nash said. They're also stationed near the Fishing Bridge Lake and the Bridge Bay areas.
Some roadways in the park were closed overnight but reopened Wednesday. "Given the changing fire and weather conditions, there's a possibility that we may have future temporary closures of roads," Nash said.
The fire forced the evacuation of at least three Sierra camps run by cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco's Camp Mather was hosting a camp for 200 senior citizens when the fast-growing fire caused officials to take people out by bus Tuesday, said Elton Pon, with San Francisco Recreation and Parks.
"We also evacuated 30 staff members from the camp," he said. "At this point, we are in a wait-and-see mode, as we are receiving information about the fire from the National Park Service," he said. As of Wednesday at noon, the fire was about 12 to 14 miles from the camp, he said.
The city of San Jose's camp, near Mather, was evacuated Monday. More than 100 high school students from Maybeck High School in Berkeley, Calif., had just arrived and were settling in for a week of activities when officers from the California Department of Forestry and Protection arrived.
"They said, 'You've got 15 minutes to get out,'" said Art Catbagan, San Jose's recreation superintendent.
The school's buses had already left and the road had been closed to the camp so camp staff loaded the teens into city trucks and drove them to Yosemite.
"The kids left with nothing more than what they could grab," Catbagan said.
It took until 1 a.m. to find buses to take them back home, said Trevor Cralle, the school's director. "Ash was falling on us everywhere, the light was getting really strange," he said. Everyone made it back safely and the experience was "very educational," he said. The students are still waiting to find out whether their belongings were destroyed.
When fire officials arrived, the students had just begun discussion groups at camp for their summer assigned reading, he said.
It was the classic novel Things Fall Apart by African author Chinua Achebe. "Now the big joke at school is 'Things Fell Apart.'"
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