October 16, 2012
Yosemite Fire Crew 6 and 7 will begin mechanical thinning project work in Hetch Hetchy and Foresta areas. They are cutting, piling and mechanically thinning dense vegetation including shade tolerant conifers such as incense cedar, white fir and ponderosa pine. They are also clearing accumulated dead biomass on the forest floor like sticks and logs. You may see and hear chain saws and see crews cutting trees and piling the brush for burning later in the year when conditions are cool and wet.
The Hetch Hetchy project is being funded by San Francisco Public Utilities commission to reduce fuels near housing units, historic structures and other infrastructure near O'Shaughnessy Dam.
The Foresta project is one of an ongoing series of projects within the community. This thinning project is located near Crane Creek falls, and will reduce the threat of fire coming up canyon from the Merced River and threaten the community. Cal Fire's Mt Bullion fire hand crew will begin this project the week of October 15.
This process of fuel reduction is one tool used by the National Park Service to reduce heavy accumulation of fuels, ultimately to prevent larger fires. In turn, this helps preserve natural and cultural resources, and provide for public and firefighter safety. These projects also serve to protect park and community structures and other cultural and natural values at risk from larger unwanted wildland fires in the Wildland Urban Interface areas (WUI).
The project also removes excess 'ladder' fuels that can carry fire from the forest floor to the canopy (tops of trees) in the event of an unwanted wildfire. When the project is completed, visitors and residents will notice clearer, more open forest in these areas. This is more typical of what forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains looked like under a natural, frequent, lightning caused fire regime. The dense forests are the result of fire suppression for over 100 years which increased the potential for catastrophic wildfire in the park.