Yosemite Fire Update #1 (2014)
March 20, 2014
Hetch Hetchy Prescribed Fire (37 56.39 x -119 47.10; 3,900 ft elevation, Tuolumne County)
Yosemite National Park is planning a prescribed fire in the Hetch Hetchy area, near O’Shaughnessy Dam. Ignition and active burning will take place on Monday March 24th around 8:00 A.M. Firefighters plan to burn a total of 57 acres over a two-day period.
Due to minimal snowpack and rain, this is an ideal timeframe for prescribed fire. Fuels and vegetation are typically too wet to burn this time of year, but the current drought has made this March an ideal time for burning. The planned burned area is surrounded by the Hetch Hetchy Road and previously burned areas that were affected by the 2013 Rim Fire.
The primary objective of this prescribed fire is to treat vegetation and fuels around the buildings and infrastructure of O’Shaughnessy Dam, which will protect the area from potential wildfires. The prescribed fire is designed to reduce surface and ladder fuels which allow ground fire to leap to tree top canopy and cause crown fires. Once the area is treated and maintained, this unit will offer a fuel break for firefighters to safely protect structures at O’Shaughnessy Dam.
Since 1930, multiple lightning ignitions have been suppressed in the Hetch Hetchy area, indicating wildfire does present risk to the developments in the area. During last year’s Rim Fire, the surrounding area burned with low to moderate intensity and, in recent years, multiple lightning fires have been managed nearby for resources objectives.
Smoke impacts are anticipated to be localized to the Hetch Hetchy Road. The Hetch Hetchy Road will remain open during the burn, with traffic control in place during roadside operations. Visitors are urged to drive with caution as firefighters, fire equipment, smoke and debris may be present on the roadway. National Park Service personnel will be present during all burn activity.
Did You Know?
In Yosemite Valley, dropping over 594-foot Nevada Fall and then 317-foot Vernal Fall, the Merced River creates what is known as the “Giant Staircase.” Such exemplary stair-step river morphology is characterized by a large variability in river movement and flow, from quiet pools to the dramatic drops of the waterfalls themselves.