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Yosemite To Start Prescribed Fire Program

Yosemite National Park will begin conducting spring prescribed fire activities to meet the 2004 management goals for wildland urban interface protection and ecosystem restoration.

Yosemite National Park fire managers plan approximately 1,300 acres of prescribed burns and 800 acres of mechanical thinning this year in the low to mid-elevation Ponderosa Pine – mixed conifer forests on the west side of the park.

Prescribed burns totaling nearly 500 acres may be ignited near Wawona beginning the week of March 22 through late May or early June. The two locations set for burns are Studhorse Ridge south of Wawona and between Chowchilla Mountain Road and Big Creek near the Wawona Campground. Smoke could impact the Wawona Campground for two or three days during ignition operations. These burns will reduce fuels and create defensible space for the wildland urban interface in Wawona.

In Yosemite Valley, 30-50 acres will be ignited near Yellow Pine Campground and the El Capitan crossover to reduce fuel loads and continue to restore meadows. Another 20-50 acres of prescribed burning will occur in El Portal adjacent to government buildings and residences. Burning may occur within last year´s Woodlot Fire perimeter to control yellow star thistle, a non-native invasive species.

As conditions at the higher elevations meet prescription standards, 200 acres will be ignited in the Crane Flat, Hodgdon, and Merced Grove area. As a continuation of the 2002 Gin Flat project, 339 acres will be ignited in a prescribed burn to provide a reduction of both fuels and fire hazards to Yosemite Institute, Crane Flat, and the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. Prescribed fire is an important tool used to reduce heavy fuel loads while simultaneously opening the conifer forest structure and maintaining the health of the meadow habitats.

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.

Conditions permitting, all burns will likely be conducted between March 22 and June 30. Traffic and trail 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.

For more information on the park´s burn plans and policies, call the Fire Information Line at 209-375-9575.