Yosemite National Park is planning a 1,447 acre prescribed fire in the southwestern portion of the park near Yosemite West. The burn is projected to start the week of April 28, depending upon weather conditions. Ignition will take approximately five days with active burning, and about two weeks to monitor burn down activity. The Wawona Road will remain open during the burn, however, traffic control may be instituted if conditions require. Firefighters, fire equipment, smoke and debris may be present on the roadway.
The primary objective of this prescribed fire is to treat hazardous vegetation and fuels (brush and other flammable material) adjacent to the Wildland Urban Interface community of Yosemite West. The burn area is east of the Wawona Road along Highway 41. This burn would protect the area from wildfires that start above the community of Yosemite West. Conducting this prescribed fire would also allow the area to function as a fire hardened buffer for future wildfires, and to anchor additional prescribed fires surrounding the community. This prescribed fire is designed to reduce surface fuels and ladder fuels. Heavy understory ladder fuels allow surface fires to spread from the ground to tree canopies creating undesirable crown fires, which are fires in the tops of trees. Once the area is treated and maintained, this area will offer a fuel break for firefighters to safely protect the area east of Yosemite West from future wildfires.
Conducting this prescribed burn in April will allow the park to protect the community of Yosemite West during this dry year. Typically, fuels in this area would be too wet to burn in April, but the drought makes this month an ideal time for prescribed fire. Taking advantage of this early dry season will allow the park to clear fuels that may pose a threat if left untreated.
The park has submitted a smoke management plan to the Mariposa County Air Pollution Control District (APCD), and will obtain a burn permit prior to burning. The prescribed fire window will be determined in collaboration with surrounding air pollution control districts to find the best opportunity for smoke to disperse from populated areas. Smoke monitors will be deployed in smoke sensitive communities to monitor air quality. The California Air Resources Board, Tuolumne, San Joaquin, and Great Basin APCDs have been notified of the burn.
Fifty lightning ignitions have been suppressed in this area since 1930. This historical fire suppression effort has put the community of Yosemite West at risk for larger wildfires. Prescribed fire mimics the effects of wildfire (reducing surface and ladder fuels) under environmental conditions the fire managers prescribe to meet life and property protection objectives and to reduce safety risks.