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Yosemite National Park will begin conducting fall prescribed fire activities to meet the management goals for wildland urban interface protection and ecosystem restoration.
Yosemite National Park fire managers plan approximately 575 acres of prescribed fire, weather and air quality conditions permitting, in the low to mid-elevation Ponderosa Pine – mixed conifer forests on the west side of the park.
A prescribed fire totaling nearly 66 acres is planned in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in the second or third week of October. This project is a maintenance fire that will reduce fuels (dead and down woody debris) and competition in the grove as well as encouraging giant sequoia germination. Giant sequoias are a fire adapted species. They have fire resistant bark and take advantage of fire to open their cones and distribute their seeds.
In Yosemite Valley, a 61 acre burn is planned in Ahwahnee Meadow and another 64 acres in Sentinel Meadow for meadow restoration. Conifer encroachment in Yosemite Valley is due, in part, because of the absence of regular fire in the meadows.
A prescribed fire project near Yosemite West of up to 238 acres is also planned for this fall. This project will reduce significant accumulations of natural fuels that could lead to a more destructive fire in hotter drier conditions. Another 147 acres is planned near Moss Creek to reduce the accumulation of fuels caused by decades of fire suppression.
Fire managers are also burning roadside piles along the Wawona Road as conditions permit. The primary goal of the roadside mechanical thinning is to reduce fire hazards along major travel routes through the park. In the event of a wildfire, this will help ensure public and firefighter safety. Thinning for removal of hazardous wildland fuels establishes and maintains fuelbreaks and evacuation routes in the event of a wildland fire emergency. It also helps reduce the potential for a large fire to spread in the tops of the trees (known as crown fires) which could ultimately overrun the road.
Yosemite historically experienced low-intensity surface fires. After decades of fire suppression, the natural role of fire was eliminated. The result is overgrown and unhealthy forests. Naturally occurring fires allow forests to be thinned, opening the canopy and allowing sunlight through. Fire allows the recycling of nutrients to the soil while reducing the amount of wood, which could otherwise be hazardous and threaten to destroy forests and structures.
Traffic restrictions may be in place to ensure safety. Fires in the park—natural or prescribed—may result in smoky conditions and reduced visibility. Please observe all warning signs posted in fire areas. Visitors with respiratory problems may need to use caution when exerting themselves in smoky areas.