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.

The Vernon Fire in 2010 was one of two fires that burned for more than two months. NPS photo by P. Bevington, August 9, 2010. Click to view full size.

Yosemite Restarts Prescribed Fire Program

Yosemite National Park, California

Following up on the Big Meadow Fire review and recommendations was vital to getting Yosemite's fire program back on track and succeeding in 2010. After the 2009 Big Meadow Fire in which a prescribed fire escaped, Yosemite needed to rebuild trust in its prescribed fire program.

The park conducted a comprehensive top to bottom review of the fuels program and addressed all action items within the Big Meadow Fire Review. All prescribed burn plans were rigorously reexamined. Park Superintendent Don Neubacher provided the final okay with a due diligence process. In late June 2010 the park conducted its first prescribed fire, the 210 acre Crane Flat project. Clear and continuous communications was the key to its success.

Smoke and its related health impacts are some of the biggest challenges Yosemite's fire program faces each year. In 2010, the park assigned a dedicated air quality manager that worked directly with state and local air quality regulators on strategies to both manage fire on the landscape and minimize potential smoke impacts. The continuous partnering and communication with gateway communities, elected officials, air regulators, and partners is key to the framework of the prescribed fire program. Meeting with affected communities and officials face-to-face in numerous public forums, park events, and other local community events was a part of what led to better communications and success.

In 2010, Yosemite fire management managed over 35 fires from confirmed lightning strikes and one prescribed fire. Thinning, piling, and burning took place on over 150 acres of wildland-urban interface near the communities of El portal, Foresta, Yosemite Valley, Aspen Valley, Wawona, and near the campgrounds of Tamarack and Crane Flat. All of these treatments led to over 3,000 acres successfully treated within the park. The Slope and the Vernon fires burned for more than two months and the smoke from them never exceeded federal air quality standards. A key tool was the use of the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) which aided in communicating the park's strategic intent to all interested internal and external audiences and allowed fire managers accomplish multiple objectives for 3,000 acres in Yosemite Wilderness.

Communication with the community and other stakeholders remains the key to success for Yosemite's fire program. Fire is an essential tool to restore and maintain forest ecosystems health and mitigate the danger of catastrophic wildfires. Clear and transparent communications to all interested parties is essential.

Contact: Gary Wuchner, Communication and Education Specialist
Phone: (209) 372-0480