Yosemite tourism takes big hit as wildfires smother national park

Fire burns near a Smokey the Bear fire warning sign as the Oak Fire burns through the area on July 24, 2022 near Jerseydale, California.
Fire burns near a Smokey the Bear fire warning sign as the Oak Fire burns through the area on July 24, 2022 near Jerseydale, California. Photo credit Getty Images
By , KCBS Radio

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KCBS RADIO) – The communities around Yosemite National Park are taking a serious economic hit from the recent wildfires that have sprung up in the area.

For a region that depends on visitor spending during peak summer travel weeks, the impact is a difficult blow to swallow.

The Washburn Fire sparked at the beginning of July, while the Oak Fire ignited on Friday, creating a continual stream of smoke and ash that has made local living difficult and discouraged the usual tourist travels.

"Smoke creates major impacts for the areas not directly impacted by fire," Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau Communications Director Tony McDaniel told KCBS Radio.

He said as people start canceling trips, the economic ecosystem takes a heavy hit.

"We're a county that is… 50% of our residents are employed in tourism in some way," McDaniel said.

When those dollars dry up, so too does stability, "and that's everyone from business owners all the way down to people who work in our restaurants, people who are tour guides," he explained. "When people start coming they lose shifts and they lose income."

It's even more damaging considering this is a stretch of time many businesses count on for tourist dollars to carry them through the slower season. "Just anecdotally, from speaking to property managers and from speaking to people who are calling us to ask what we should do, I do know that there have been a high number of cancellations," McDaniel said.

Despite the concern, the director reassured that the region has been through this before, so at the very least there is a blueprint to guide recovery.

As of Tuesday morning, the Oak Fire had reached 18,087 acres with 26% containment, while the Washburn Fire is currently 4,875 acres with 87% containment.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images