Yosemite Fire Crew 6 is working near Swinging Bridge conducting a hazardous fuel reduction project. They are cutting, piling and mechanically thinning dense vegetation including shade tolerant conifers such as incense cedar, white fir and ponderosa pine. They are also clearing accumulated dead biomass on the forest floor like sticks and logs. You will hear chain saws and see crews cutting trees and piling the brush for burning later in the year when conditions are cool and wet. Additionally, fire crews are accumulating and will save 3” to 10″ in diameter cedar stems and logs that will be recycled for historic structure restoration in the park.
This process of fuel reduction is one tool used by the National Park Service to reduce heavy accumulation of fuels, ultimately to prevent larger fires. In turn, this helps preserve natural and cultural resources, and provide for public and firefighter safety. These projects also serve to protect park and community structures and other cultural and natural values at risk from larger unwanted wildland fires in the Wildland Urban Interface areas (WUI).
The project also removes excess ‘ladder’ fuels that can carry fire from the forest floor to the canopy (tops of trees) in the event of an unwanted wildfire. When the project is completed, visitors will notice clearer, more open forest in these areas. This is more typical of what forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains looked like under a natural, frequent, lightning caused fire regime. The dense forests are the result of fire suppression for over 100 years which increased the potential for catastrophic wildfire in the park. The Wawona mechanical thinning project is one of four areas of thinning being conducted in the park. El Portal, Foresta and roadside thinning along Wawona Road are other area currently being treated.
Hikers and backpackers and users of the South Fork of the Merced River are welcome to observe the crews. For safety you are urged to stay on the path and do not enter into the forested thinning project area.