Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Prescribed Fire Welcomed in Old El Portal

Yosemite National Park, California

Residents in the community of Old El Portal have grown to welcome the annual prescribed fire project in their community.

Each spring, after the grasses have cured, a prescribed fire is completed, providing a fuel break against unwanted fire in the late summer months when the fire danger is extreme.

Although the community never opposed this project, a renewed involvement and interest has occurred in the last few years and for good reason.

On July 8, 2004, the Woodlot Fire, an arson fire, started and quickly grew to 300 acres in the hot, dry conditions driven by afternoon up canyon winds. The park ordered additional firefighting resources to help with suppression efforts. The fire threatened Old El Portal as well as the communities of Rancheria and Foresta.

The prescribed fire completed earlier in 2004 aided suppression efforts. Firefighters used this prescribed fire fuel break to make a safe defense around the town.

The difference in fire behavior was noticeable to firefighters and residents alike. The prescribed fire demonstrated that the fuel break provided for firefighter and public safety and helped to protect the community.

Several residents inquired in advance this year to ensure the project would happen again and its timing. The project is becoming a community event. Many residents congregated and watched while firefighters brought fire near their town. This provided an excellent opportunity for Yosemite Fire staff to talk to community members about other important steps that can be taken, such as creating defensible space around property so unwanted wildfire doesn't adversely impact their community in the future.

Contact: Deb Schweizer, Fire Education Specialist
Phone: (209) 372-0480