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Park Implements Changes Since Big Meadow Fire of 2009
Yosemite fire managers have announced the 2010 Fire Season has begun. Fire season officially begins when seasonal firefighting equipment and personnel are in place, prepared and ready to respond. Firefighters have spent the last week conducting their annual readiness reviews that demonstrate skills and proficiency for fighting fire. In addition, daily weather patterns, temperatures, and moisture levels are closely monitored, which aids in determining if vegetation is within prescription for burning.
Yosemite National Park will begin implementing the prescribed burn program for the 2010 season. This will be the first fire season since the escaped Big Meadow Fire of August 2009. The prescribed burn escaped and eventually burned approximately 7,500 acres. No structures or personnel were lost in the escaped fire, however, several roads and campgrounds were closed due to safety concerns.
After full containment of the Big Meadow fire in September, fire officials from the Pacific West Regional Office for the National Park Service performed a comprehensive fire review. The purposes of the review were to examine the causes of the escaped prescribed burn and help the park minimize potential escaped fires in the future. The Big Meadow Prescribed Fire Review identified lessons learned, as well as methods for supporting the lessons. Lessons learned and future action items include:
- Yosemite will improve fire plans to address specific site conditions.
- The park will consult with Regional Fire Management Staff prior to the implementation of all prescribed burns.
- The park will better record seasonal changes in fuel moisture, fire danger, fire behavior, and weather.
- Yosemite will develop a five year strategic fire program that meets workforce capabilities.
- The park will assure adequate formal training for all fire employees and management staff.
- The park will ensure sufficient communication between all park staff.
There are currently several proposed prescribed burns located in the western portion of the park near Crane Flat. The purpose of these prescribed burns is to reduce hazardous fuels near the park boundary, protect the Rockefeller Grove of sugar pine trees, and protect the Crane Flat area. The area was last treated by logging and mechanical thinning in the 1920s. Site preparation is underway, however the specific dates for the prescribed burn have not been established.
Yosemite National Park officials are committed to ensuring sufficient fire crews will be onsite during all prescribed burn activity. These resources will monitor fire behavior and weather, as well as support burnout and holding operations to ensure firefighter safety, public safety, and to prevent prescribed fire escape.