If you are visiting the parks, be aware that fire and smoke can be present at any time. Portions of the fire-adapted environments of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks burn each year as they have for thousands of years. Depending on your preference, the presence of fire and smoke can be fascinating or disagreeable, or both!
Am I sensitive to smoke? If you are very sensitive to or bothered by smoke and your destination in the parks has current fire activity, the parks encourage you to visit an alternate location in Sequoia or Kings Canyon where you will be more comfortable. You can still learn about the role of fire from ranger-led programs or visitor center exhibits. For information on current activities, go to News Releases. For information on possible upcoming projects, go to Planned Projects. (Special Note: Aside from smoke, certain summertime weather conditions in these national parks cause unhealthy air quality because of ozone. For more information, go to Air Resources Overview.)
While fire is a very important process for maintaining healthy forest conditions, there is a challenging side effect: smoke. Fire managers are sensitive to the need for smoke management during fire operations since the parks host nearly 1.5 million visitors each year and share boundaries with numerous local communities.
While most fires do not cause serious smoke impacts for visitors or residents, it is inevitable that some smoke will be present. Exposure to this smoke can be reduced through actions by both park management and the public.
Smoke management in the parks consists of at least four different strategies. First, for prescribed fires, managers choose ignition days with unstable atmospheric conditions, which help disperse smoke. Second, the parks control smoke output by limiting the number of acres ignited per day. Third, using an experienced smoke technician, the parks monitor particulate levels using stationary and mobile equipment. And finally, the parks notify local residents and visitors prior to an ignition.
What the Public Can Do
With advanced notice, people can follow simple guidelines to reduce their exposure on smoky days:
Consult your physician if, after following these guidelines, you still experience discomfort while breathing.