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.

Protecting Natural and Cultural Resources
on the Lion Fire

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Cohesive Strategy—Response to Wildfire*

tree trunk in the foreground snowy hillside in the background

The foxtail pine grows at high elevations and in sparse fuels that do not encourage frequent or intense fires. Photo by Tony Caprio.

The Lion Fire started July 8, 2011 by lightning on the Sequoia National Forest. As the fire grew, the containment line included a small area in the southern part of Sequoia National Park. This segment of the park near Quinn Peak and Soda Butte provided challenges for firefighters because of several natural and cultural resource concerns that included the Little Kern golden trout, foxtail pine, and the Quinn Patrol Cabin. The parks' Crew 91 and Engine 72 worked on the fire response in the park.

The Little Kern golden trout is a species endemic to a small area in the park and the forest just to the south. This species is found nowhere else naturally on the planet. Therefore, special efforts to protect this fish included no use of retardant, no dipping from these streams, and not adding fire within the riparian areas near the streams. This allows fire to back into the drainages and extinguish in these wet areas, as fire historically did. Additionally, if the crews needed to use pumps, they sanitized the equipment prior to use. Firefighters noted that there was an abundance of golden trout in the streams.

The foxtail pine is closely related to the bristlecone pine on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. This high-elevation tree experiences fire infrequently, so fire crews were careful to not add any fire into foxtail pine forest. Fire from lower elevations and different fuel types did not, as a rule, carry into the foxtail, allowing for natural fire to play its role in all ecosystems.

The Quinn Patrol Cabin is on the National Register of Historic Places. This cabin, constructed in 1906, was erected by the US Cavalry as a patrol cabin for the recently-formed park to keep effective patrols in the southern part of the park. The US Cavalry was responsible for patrol and protection of the park prior to the formation of the National Park Service in 1916.

firefighters outside of an old logcabin

Firefighters prepare for protection of the Quinn Patrol Cabin.

It was named after Harry Quinn, one of many settlers who made a living by sheepherding in the High Sierra meadows. Quinn established a horse camp to pasture his pack stock that supported his sheepherding operations. The formation of Sequoia National Park in 1890 closed this area and others to grazing. For the park and the military staff that patrolled it, keeping domestic sheep from the parks was a key goal and patrols into these areas helped prevent it. Today, park trail crews and rangers still use the cabin. The parks' historic preservation staff recently completed key maintenance to the building, including replacement of the shake roof to ensure that this cabin and its history remain intact.

Firefighters observed significant accumulations of dead and down fuel near the cabin and worked to manually remove these fuels from near the cabin, creating a defensible space area. As the Lion Fire approached, they conducted strategic burning operations near it to remove fuels in front of the main fire and therefore protect the cabin.

Thanks to the excellent work of firefighters, the natural and cultural values that help define why the national parks exist were protected. The fire behavior within the parks was low-intensity and helped reduce the accumulation of fuels; restoring the natural process of fire in the fire-adapted Sierra Nevada.

Contact: Deb Schweizer, Fire Education Specialist
Phone: (559) 565-3703

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.