Land Shaped by Fire
Natural fires as well as prescribed burns are critical to the park ecosystems you have come to see. Occasionally that means that a trail or area may be closed temporarily due to dense smoke or the presence of flames. In other areas you may smell smoke, even if the fire is not nearby. Fire and/or smoke may be present in these parks at any time of year.
Why use fire? Fire ecology is a natural part of these landscapes. Plants and animals here have adapted to it. Some actually need periodic fire for survival. Sequoias, for example, have adaptations to survive fire, and have trouble reproducing without it. Flames clear and fertilize the ground under the big trees, leaving the kind of soil in which their seeds germinate best. Not coincidentally, fire also opens sequoia cones, so that seeds rain down on this excellent seedbed. In addition, fires remove ground vegetation and forest litter that compete with the seedlings for moisture, nutrients, and sunlight.
Throughout the parks, complete fire suppression would harm the parks' natural character and increase the threat of catastrophic wildfires. Therefore, the park uses natural fires as well as prescribed burns to maintain these ecosystems. Fire mapping and GIS helps to spatially visualize prescribed natural fires, suppressed lightning fires, human-caused wildfires, and planned and completed prescribed burns. The Annual Fire Atlas shows how fires have burned through these parks for the past 50 years.
About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ Fire Management Program
For over forty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.
Last updated: March 19, 2018