This years early spring brought with it an unwelcome guest, an early fire season. This year the Sierra is extremely dry and already there are fires burning in and around Yosemite.
The three fires listed below started the afternoon of May 18th when a monsoonal flow brought a mass of unstable air over the Sierra. The resulting thunderheads brought rain and lightning in a storm the likes of which are normally encountered in August not May.
National Park Service: Suppression Zone:
West (37⁰40’24.24” 119⁰45’19.45”): This lightning caused fire is in Mariposa County near the park boundary and north/west of the community of Yosemite West. It was necessary for crews to rappel into this fire due to steepness of the terrain it is contained and is being mopped up this afternoon. It was smoldering in pine needles and some down logs and was put out due to significant threats to the community of Yosemite West. It will be patrolled by air.
Cottonwood (37⁰54’13.68” 119⁰47’41.64”): This lightning caused fire is in Tuolumne County and is burning within the 1996 Ackerson fire perimeter. It is 2.5 miles east of the Mather Ranger Station and near Cottonwood Meadow. It is actively burning in whitethorn and dead and down timber. As of 10:00 AM on May 20, 2009 about 15 acres had burned. Fire managers are considering all suppression options.
Mono (37⁰40’ 25.31” 119⁰33’ 56.89”) – This lightning caused fire is located in Mariposa County within the Illilouette Basin and in the wilderness zone. Approximately ¾ of an acre is burning in brush and dead and down logs within the 2004 Meadow Fire perimeter at about 7500’. This area has a considerable history of natural wildfire that has been managed for restoration of forest systems. Fire crews are currently monitoring the fire. This fire has low potential for spread.
The protection of human life and property is the top priority for Yosemite’s fire management staff, as well as the preservation of natural and cultural resources, and the preservation and restoration of fire-dependent ecosystems. Each fire is managed individually to achieve one or more objectives in the safest, most efficient, and cost-effective way possible. In order to achieve this, strategies employed may include full suppression, containment line building, use of natural barriers, monitoring, and other management techniques or combination of techniques.
Park staff will monitor smoke on a consistent basis. However, smoky conditions may exist within the park. Residents and visitors are advised to take precautions to minimize smoke impacts to health. People with respiratory problems should use caution when exerting themselves in smoky areas.