Tuolumne County Supervisor Mark Thornton got board member approval this morning to send a letter to the Yosemite National Park superintendent voicing the county’s concern over wildland fires that are being allowed to burn in the park’s White Wolf campground area near Tioga Pass.
The issue, which arose subsequent to the board’s agenda posting, was heard by the supervisors at Tuesday morning’s meeting.
Thornton says he’s concerned these lightning-sparked fires – burning since early July – are adding to air quality problems the Mother Lode region is currently experiencing.
More so, Thornton says the fires have a potential to get out of hand should a change in weather or wind develop, blowing up into catastrophic proportions in light of fire danger and drought conditions in the foothills.
“I believe Yosemite National Park publicly said they are not in a drought and that’s why they’re letting these fires burn,” Thornton said. “But I respectfully disagree with their assessment.”
Currently the fires are burning at a slow rate and are being watched by park fire personnel.
Thornton says the park’s been fortunate so far that the fires haven’t gotten out of hand.
“The projections underlie in my opinion and validate my concerns that these fire potentially can spread and spread rapidly. And if there´s an adverse weather pattern, spread with devastating effects,” Thornton told the other board members this morning.
The supervisor from District 4, which includes Groveland and Yosemite, says the foothills and mountain areas are currently experiencing drought conditions, adding to the potential fire powder keg in the park.
Board chairperson Laurie Sylwester commented that she didn’t want the letter to be a total board point of view, since she thinks letting the fires burn the materials on the forest floor is needed. “I want to have my name off this letter,” Sylwester said.
The majority of the other supervisors agreed the letter was necessary. They agreed it would be sent out with signatures of those supervisors who are in agreement with the request and concerns.
Supervisor Dick Pland said it was time to take action to protect the health and welfare of the citizens.
The supervisor’s letter will ask the park to establish perimeters around the fires that are still burning and suppress any additional lightning caused fires that occur below 8,500 feet.