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Labor Day travel complicated by Yosemite fire, Bay Bridge closure

  • Smoke clouds from the Rim Fire in the western Sierra Nevada loom up some 20 miles behind the famed granite monolith known as Half Dome, left center, in Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. ((AP Photo/Tami Abdollah))

Californians are preparing to hit the road in droves for the Labor Day weekend, even as a massive fire near Yosemite National Park threatens communities and prompts air quality warnings as far away as the popular tourist destinations of Lake Tahoe and Reno.

Travel from the Bay Area is further complicated by the five-day closure of the Bay Bridge, temporarily severing the major highway route linking San Francisco and the East Bay.

Most of Yosemite remained open to the public Wednesday, according to the National Parks Service. But the Rim fire continued to rage, growing to nearly the size of New York City while pumping acrid smoke across the Sierra Nevada and threatening holiday plans.

Western Wildfires

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That included Stephanie Larcher of Santa Rosa and a group of her girlfriends who have booked a house in South Lake Tahoe this weekend for a bachelorette party. One member of the group already has backed out of the trip due to concern that the smoke could exacerbate her asthma.

Larcher said the group has tickets for country star Brad Paisley's Friday night performance at an outdoor venue at Harveys. A casino spokesman did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment on whether the event will go on as planned.

“I'm bummed for the bride, because she has been planning her wedding since she was 5, and this is not how she wanted the weekend to go,” Larcher said.

Jillian Fiske of Sonoma was still planning to visit her parents and other relatives in the Tuolumne County town of Sonora this weekend, despite the town's proximity to the blaze. She normally goes home this time of year to see family and enjoy one last boat ride on Pinecrest Lake.

“It will be nice to go home and see everyone and know they're safe,” said Fiske, a manager at Ty Caton Vineyards in Sonoma.

The weekend weather forecast for the Yosemite area does not look especially promising, calling for breezy conditions that could fan the flames and spread more smoke across the region.

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