Photographers gather in Yosemite for « once in a lifetime » firefall

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Yosemite National Park in California is world-renowned for its dramatic landscape, sheer granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls, the most famous of which being aptly named Yosemite Falls. But this week, people visiting the park will be looking for a smaller, little-known waterfall that may briefly appear as if it were made of fire.

Of the millions of people that visit the park every year, a select few chose to travel to Yosemite around the third week of February to try and catch a glimpse of a rare event known as the ‘firefall.’

The firefall phenomenon only occurs a few days every year when light hits Horsetail Fall at just the right angle shortly before sunset, to make the waterfall appear like it is on fire.

« It’s a once in a lifetime thing, but it’s really iffy becasuse you never know [if it will happen], » Reno DiTullio, a photographer visiting Yosemite, told AccuWeather.

« This unique lighting effect happens only on evenings with a clear sky when the waterfall is flowing, » the National Park Service (NPS) explained on their website. « Even some haze or minor cloudiness can greatly diminish or eliminate the effect. »

In 2019, the firefall put on an incredible display for those in the park as all of the ingredients came together perfectly.

This year, the setting sun is expected to be at the best angle for the firefall between Friday, Feb. 21 and Sunday, Feb. 23. However, visitors in the right place at the right time may end up missing the show due to the lack of one key ingredient: water.

« The problem is you can’t have a firefall without a spark or in this case the water, and it just hasn’t rained or snowed enough so far this year here in Yosemite, » AccuWeather News Reporter Jonathan Petramala said.

As of Friday, Feb. 14, Horsetail Fall was dry following a stretch of dry weather across the region, according to the NPS.