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Tourists, Residents Evacuate as Yosemite Wildfire Grows Exponentially

Adding to the more than 50 wildfires burning across the nation, a massive blaze has ignited in the popular tourist destination of Yosemite National Park, threatening more than 4,500 structures and prompting evacuations across the area.

The fire, named the Rim Fire, is burning in Tuolomne County, near Groveland along Highway 120. It has consumed more than 105,000 acres since its start on Aug. 17 and still has extreme growth potential, according to the governmental Incident Information System.

More than 2,000 personnel are working to battle the blaze that was only 2 percent contained as of Friday afternoon. The cause remains under investigation.

As visitors began to inquire about closures, visibility and conditions on Facebook, the park service has issued several posts.

"Yosemite is fully open, but visitors wishing to come in the next few days may want to consider alternate routes," the page read on Aug. 19.

The fire has temporarily closed the heavily traveled entrance route of Highway 120 west of the park but has not threatened alternate routes including Highways 140 and 41 or Highway 120 from the east over Tioga Pass.

As extinguishing efforts continue, the city of San Francisco was under a local State of Emergency Friday to assist firefighting coordination.

More than 2.6 million people in the Bay Area receive water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite.

"This declaration will help San Francisco increase coordination and manage resources being deployed to support our local, federal and state partners who are fighting this fire," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a press release.

Though a recent Facebook update by the National Park states that Yosemite Valley and most of Yosemite has good visibility, dense smoke is pouring out of the area.

Satellite images reveal it has traveled as far as eastern Oregon and extreme western Idaho.

Smoke will continue to spread through the weekend, as winds are forecast to gust between 15 and 20 miles per hour in the afternoon and evenings, according to AccuWeather.com Expert Meteorologist Ken Clark.

Strong winds can hamper the containment effort by fanning the flames and allowing the blaze to spread further.

Beneficial moisture is on the way for parts of the drought-stricken Southwest as Tropical Storm Ivo formed in the East Pacific Friday.

"Unfortunately, all the rain coming into the Southwest is going to miss Yosemite," Clark said.

The tropical system is headed toward the central and southern regions of the Baja Peninsula.