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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.

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.

"Basically, the wind every day has been flowing north and northeast toward Lake Tahoe and Reno. They've had some really horrible air quality from it," said Stefanie Henry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The air quality index improved Wednesday in the Reno-Sparks area but still registered in the "unhealthy" range. In Tahoe, a dense-smoke advisory was extended through today, and it could carry into the weekend. Sunday's annual fireworks show in South Lake Tahoe was still set to go on, however.

Sonoma County Regional Parks has fielded a number of calls this week from people whose plans to camp in the Sierra have fallen through. All reserved campsites at Doran Beach, Westside and other coastal venues are booked, and most of the first-come, first-served sites are spoken for, said Meda Freeman, a parks spokeswoman.

"The forecast calls for perfect weather, and rangers expect the Russian River parks will be busy with people enjoying the beaches," Freeman said.

The weekend also is the last time to enjoy the Spring Lake lagoon in Santa Rosa and Veterans Memorial Beach in Healdsburg before both swimming holes close for the season.

Significantly more numbers of Californians are expected to hit the roads this weekend despite the Rim fire and the weekend closure of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to prepare for the opening of the new eastern span. The bridge was closed at 8 p.m. Wednesday and is slated to reopen at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

More than 3.9 million Californians are predicted to travel 50miles or more from their homes this weekend, an increase of 6 percent compared to last year, according to AAA Northern California.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@presssdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.