Yosemite National Park’s air quality worst in US due to fires: report

Yosemite National Park’s air quality worst in US due to fires: report

The air quality in Yosemite National Park has reached worse levels than anywhere in the U.S. and now rivals that of downtown Beijing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The EPA's AIRNow website listed the park at an air quality index of 386 on Friday, levels considered "hazardous" by the EPA, according to The Associated Press. On Saturday, the levels had receded to 154, ranked by the EPA as "unhealthy."

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Officials say the cause of the recent poor air quality is nearby wildfires in the state, which are releasing record levels of smoke into the atmosphere.

The park closed on July 25 for what has become the longest closure in two decades, according to the AP, with officials planning to reopen on Monday. A reassessment of conditions will take place, however, before the park is opened.

“We are hoping to get back open on Monday but conditions have to be safe,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the AP.

Gediman estimated a loss in the millions in terms of revenue for the park, which often sees 20,000 visitors on a typical summer day according to park officials.

“It’s a huge impact,” he said. “This time of year the campgrounds would be full and the lodging would be full."

Five people were declared dead in a Northern California wildfire last week that has forced tens of thousands of Californians to evacuate.

The state is currently facing a record wildfire season that experts say is exacerbated by a changing climate. The National Interagency Fire Center says more than 2.5 million acres have burned across the United States since January, higher than the 10-year average of about 2.3 million over the same period.