NPS: Yosemite National Park Fire Management is preparing for a fire season after a long, wet winter in the Sierra Nevada. Seasonal fire employees have returned to the park, as has the park’s fire helicopter.
The high level of precipitation could moderate the fire season in the mountains. However, it may increase fire potential in the lower elevations as the heavier concentrations of grass and brush dry as the summer progresses.
A series of late season storms delayed the spring prescribed fire window. However, fire managers plan to take advantage of the moist conditions in the late spring to undertake multiple prescribed fires throughout the park. These projects include Wawona, El Portal, Hodgdon Meadows, Gin Flat, and Yosemite Valley. Later season projects include the Mariposa Grove, Aspen Valley, Yosemite West, the south boundary, and Gin Flat.
Mechanical treatment on the Wawona Road (Highway 41) will continue this year. Visitors will notice the “miles of piles” lining the Wawona Road and the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) this summer. This is part of a fuel reduction project that will help firefighters make a safer stand at the road in the event of an unwanted fire. It also provides a safer route for visitors and residents in the case of an evacuation. Trees smaller than 20 inches in diameter at breast height and brush are being thinned within 200 feet of the road. These piles will be burned when conditions permit.
Approved projects for this year total almost 5,000 acres. However, only segments of these projects are likely to be completed. For example, roughly 1,500 acres of the Gin Flat project is expected to be completed in 2005. The execution of burns depends on air quality conditions, workload, fuel moistures, weather, and other factors.