Yosemite National Park has begun preparations for spring prescribed fire and fuels projects. Fifty years of research has taught park managers that suppressing all fires results in unnatural fuel buildup and only delays the inevitable, which can make fires more severe than they otherwise would have been. Prescribed fire and fuels reduction projects are important tools for reducing excessive vegetation build up on the landscape in order to reduce the severity of future fires.
Crane Flat Prescribed Fire
Yosemite fire crews are continuing preparation for a prescribed fire near Crane Flat lookout between the Tioga Road and Big Oak Flat Road. Planned ignitions are for Units A-D for a total of 670 acres. Ignitions will consist of hand firing with drip torches, as well as aerial firing utilizing a helicopter and plastic sphere dispenser (PSD) machine. The exact ignition date of this prescribed fire depends on a crucial mixture of weather, fuels moistures, and firefighter availability. Smoke impacts will be localized to the Crane Flat area during the day. However, transient smoke will likely drift down canyon during the evening hours.
Pile burning will continue throughout the park as conditions allow. Burning piles is an efficient and effective way for reducing excessive fuel build-up on the landscape. These piles are remnants of mechanical thinning from forestry operations and large-scale landscape restoration projects throughout the park. Most of the burning will take place in Yosemite Valley and the community of Wawona. Smoke from ignited piles will remain until the piles are completely consumed.
Fire personnel are currently working in the community of Wawona on the Section 35 fuels project. This project is on-going and will mainly consist of cutting dead and down vegetation with chainsaws then piling it for future burning. You may see fuels crews and heavy equipment near residences, please use caution in these areas.
Smoke will be present during prescribed fire operations. However, smoke produced during a prescribed fire is significantly less than if an unwanted wildfire occurs. Yosemite National Park works closely with park air quality specialists to calculate how much smoke may be produced based on the vegetation (fuel) type, number of acres, and meteorological conditions. Particulate monitors are placed in areas that may see impacts of smoke during certain hours of the day. Fire managers work closely with local air pollution control districts to time the projects to coincide with favorable weather and smoke dispersion conditions. Smoke impacts are always a consideration in the decision to begin prescribed fire ignitions. A smoke management plan will be submitted, and a burn permit will be issued for Crane Flat.