April 21, 2013
Yosemite National Park fire managers began burning the 150 acre Wawona Northwest Segment B Prescribed Fire on April 21, 2013. A test burn was started and conditions were favorable to continue the prescribed fire project. Ignition will take 2 - 4 days and active burn down will last 1 - 2 weeks.
The primary objective is to reduce hazardous fuels within the mixed conifer forest adjacent to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) community of Wawona. This project creates a continuous area of reduced fuel by linking together multiple previous fires and treatments including the 2007 and 2008 Wawona Northwest prescribed fires, the 2007 Jack wildfire, which was caused by lightning, and a series of mechanical vegetation thinning projects in the 2000's.
A secondary objective is ecosystem restoration. Applying fire under prescribed conditions mimics the frequent, low intensity lightning caused fires that occurred in Sierras prior to the exclusion of fire which began over 100 years ago under aggressive fire suppression policies. 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 have accumulated which has put many of Yosemite's values at risk, including neighboring communities, and natural and cultural features. As climate changes, these values become increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire.
Community members and visitors can expect to see crews from various federal and state agencies conducting burn operations in the coming days.
Smoke will be present during the prescribed fire, particularly during late evening and early morning hours. Fire managers are working with the Mariposa County Air Pollution District (MCAPCD) to time the project to coincide with favorable weather that will facilitate good air quality, and disperse smoke into the atmosphere away from the community. Prior to ignition, a burn permit was issued to the park by MCAPCD and smoke monitoring equipment was installed in the community. Community members who are sensitive to smoke may want to close their windows and doors and/or consider leaving the area during active ignition of the project in order to reduce their exposure.