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Prescribed Burn Planned Near Wawona In Yosemite National Park


Don't be too alarmed if you see smoke wafting above the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park later this week. Park officials are planning a prescribed burn in that part of the park to reduce a buildup of fuels.

The burn is planned for Wednesday, but is contingent on favorable burning conditions. Park officials say favorable weather is expected throughout the week, which will allow for optimal smoke dispersion. The total prescribed fire area will include 846 acres and is estimated to take several days to one week to complete. This will be the first prescribed fire of the 2012 fire season.

The prescribed fire will take place in the vicinity of the 2007 lighting-caused fire, known as the Jack Fire. The fire is designed to reduce hazardous fuels in the Wawona Wildland Urban Interface area. Burning this segment will form a barrier to the community of Wawona from the spread of unwanted wildfire approaching from Turner Ridge to the north and from the South Fork Merced River drainage to the northwest. This project ties together multiple and historical research, natural and prescribed fires, and mechanical thinning.

Another objective for this project is to conduct ecosystem restoration by applying fire to landscape adapted to thrive in fire conditions. Fire is a natural process that plays an integral role in shaping the Yosemite landscape. Densities of shade tolerant tree species, such as white fir and incense cedar, and forest litter and duff have accumulated to unnatural levels in the absence of fire. Through the application of fire, a more natural vegetation composition on the forest floor can flourish.

Smoke from the fire may be visible throughout the park, but may be more evident in the Wawona area and the southern portion of the park. Additionally, fire equipment and fire crews will be present in the area of the fire and along roadways. Visitors and park employees are urged to drive slowly and with caution through the burn area.

Yosemite Fire Managers are working with Mariposa County and Tuolumne County, San Joaquin Valley, and Great Basin Air Pollution Control Districts (APCDs), in order to time the burn during the most favorable weather conditions that will facilitate good air quality and disperse smoke impacts. A burn permit has been issued to the park by the Mariposa County APCD and air quality measuring devices are beings staged in the surrounding communities.


Once upon a long time ago -- 1970 it was -- Bob Barbee was resource specialist in YOSE trying to figure out why Sequoias were not reproducing. The only reproduction was in places like road cuts where bare mineral soil was exposed. He determined that the Sequoia groves had once been open, grassy areas with little or no understory. (Like a typical well established ponderosa forest.) Indians had used fire to maintain a good crop of oaks because acorns provided a substantial portion of their daily bread. Bob had discovered that tiny Sequoia seeds could not root themselves in thick duff on the forest floor.

To make a long story a bit shorter, a prescribed burn was started in the autumn. The fire control officer wanted to play it very safe because there had been a lot of controversy over "setting fire to the Sequoias." By the time we started the fire, it would hardly burn. After a lot of effort, we managed to get a creeping ground fire going. It was creeping so slowly, in fact, that when evening came it was deemed safe for all of us to go home.

But not long after we had done so, the Wawona district ranger was eating supper when there came a knock on his door. A rather elderly couple reported they had found a fire burning in the grove. But don't worry, they said, "We put it out."

The next day it was a troop of Boy Scouts who did the good deed. We finally had to leave a ranger on site to protect the fire from disciples of Smokey the Bear.

Lee, this is a nice story, yes that is the way it was. Must give many kudo's to the current Fire Management program in Yosemite for their efforts in restoring fire for the ecological health of Sierra Forest. The park has an excellent natural and prescribed fire management program and includes a full time fire ecologist. Fire effects are monitored and studied by an array of qualified resource personnel. Thanks Kurt for this informative post.

They'd better be careful. Dave Uberuaga got in hot water because he approved the Foresta prescribed burn that turned into the Big Meadow Fire.

And of course there is an absolute need to be careful. The Berkeley Hills fire of 1991 (and I saw that myself) occurred when fire crews had put out a grass fire, which restarted after the crew had left.

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