Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Wildfires affect air quality in the Mono Basin and Yosemite National Park

This post was written by Alison Kaplan, 2018 & 2019 Canoe Coordinator.

The sky remains hazy in the Eastern Sierra as smoke from two wildfires continues to affect air quality.

Smoke from the Ferguson Fire in Mono Basin. Photo by Eric Bergdoll.
The Ferguson Fire as seen from Foresta. Photo courtesy of Ayla Mae Wild.

The Ferguson Fire started on Friday, July 13 and is currently burning over 21,000 acres in the Sierra National Forest just west of Yosemite National Park near the small community of El Portal. Highway 140 is closed, cutting off access to Yosemite via the Arch Rock Entrance. Air quality monitoring in Yosemite Valley rated the air quality as unhealthy or even very unhealthy each day since July 15, and the National Park Service has recommended that visitors be prepared to limit any strenuous outdoor activity during periods of high smoke concentration. Visitors should also be aware that smoke concentration will cause limited visibility. You can use the NPS website to check for up-to-date information on air quality in Yosemite Valley or view the webcams to check visibility.

The Georges Fire is a lightning-caused fire that started burning on July 8 north of Lone Pine. The Whitney Portal area was evacuated and closed for two days, but it reopened on the evening of July 11 and the visitor center continues to issue permits for the Mt. Whitney trailhead. As of July 14 the fire is at 42% containment.

The Sierra Nevada obscured by smoke from nearby fires. Photo by Alison Kaplan.

Smoke from the Ferguson Fire has been blowing down into the Mono Basin and affecting air quality as far south as Mammoth Lakes. Visitors to the Mono Basin should be prepared for variable air quality and visibility as these fires continue to burn. Stay up to date on current air quality by checking for updates from the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution District, and remember that fire restrictions are still in effect for all of the Inyo National Forest.

Please refer to the InciWeb Incident Information System for official updates regarding these wildfires.