Fire and/or smoke may be present in the parks at any time.
Land Shaped by Fire
Naturally-ignited fires as well as human-ignited fires are critical to Sierra Nevada ecosystems. Occasionally, a trail or an area may be temporarily closed due to fire activity. 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.
The presence of smoke or fire is not necessarily a bad thing. Fire ecology is an important part of these landscapes. Plants and animals have adapted to fire. 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 open soil in which their seeds germinate best. The heat from fire also opens sequoia cones, so that seeds rain down on this excellent seedbed. In addition, fires thin smaller vegetation that competes with sequoia seedlings for moisture, nutrients, and sunlight.
Suppressing all fires harms the parks' natural character, and increases the threat of catastrophic wildfires by allowing litter and duff and understory vegetation to accumulate. Therefore, some fires in the parks are allowed to run their natural course, and the parks also use prescribed burning to support the health of these ecosystems. Fire mapping and GIS help to spatially visualize prescribed natural fires, suppressed lightning fires, human-caused wildfires, and planned and completed prescribed burns.
About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ Fire Management Program
For over fifty 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: October 2, 2023