Yosemite National Park Fire managers are planning a prescribed fire in Yosemite National Park on or before Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, weather and conditions permitting. There are two locations being considered for this prescribed burn and the final decision will be based on weather and air quality conditions. The prescribed burn will either occur in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias or an area along the Wawona Road near the south entrance of the park.
The Mariposa Grove project is the park’s highest priority and will begin at the top of the Grove near Wawona Point and continue South. The Mariposa Grove is currently closed for a major restoration project and fire managers are aiming to complete this prescribed burn during the closure to prevent further interruption to park visitors. Fire produces the optimum conditions for Giant Sequoia reproduction and propagation by removing the accumulated layers of dead, woody debris and exposing nutrient rich mineral soil. Fire also dries the cones allowing the seeds to shed, creates holes in the forest canopy, and eliminates shade tolerant competition.
The Soupbowl project aims to reduce hazardous fuels adjacent to the community of Wawona, park infrastructure at the south entrance station, and the Mariposa Grove of sequoias. This project will create a continuous area of reduced fuel by linking together previous prescribed fire areas.
Both of these projects will also achieve important ecosystem restoration objectives. Applying fire under prescribed conditions mimics the frequent, low intensity, lightning caused fires that naturally occur in the Sierra Nevada. Historically, natural fire burned an average of 16,000 acres annually in Yosemite and played an integral role in shaping Yosemite’s ecosystems. In the absence of frequent fire, unnatural levels of forest biomass accumulate and pose a risk to neighboring communities and Yosemite’s natural and cultural resources.
Smoke from the fire may be visible within the Wawona area and south entrance. Smoke and its potential to affect health is always a consideration in the decision to schedule prescribed fires. A smoke management plan has been submitted to the Mariposa County Air Pollution Control District, and a burn permit will be issued prior to ignition. A smoke monitor will be placed in nearby communities to monitor smoke.
For more information on this specific prescribed burn, or Yosemite’s fire program, visit: http://www.nps.gov/yose/blogs/fireinfo.htm.