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Prescribed Burning And Lightning-Caused Fires On Sierra National Forest

NORTH FORK – The Sierra National Forest, Bass Lake Ranger District, is preparing for the fall, winter, and spring burning program, said District Ranger Denise Tolmie, and projects will consist of three activities: pile burning, broadcast, and underburning.

The objectives will be to reduce fuel loading from recent tree morality, and hazard removal projects within the Wildland Urban Interface and high-use recreation areas around Bass Lake.

Site preparation for reforestation within these areas, and within the French Fire footprint will also be accomplished with these burns.

Several projects proposed for the fall, winter, and spring of 2017-18, include the Source-Kinsman Underburn located south and west of Clearwater station in the upper Clearwater Creek drainage, and the Batterson and Jerseydale Administrative burns located at each of these ranger stations.

Pile burning projects are dispersed throughout the Ranger District, and could begin as early as Nov. 1, says Tolmie. Many of these projects are located at higher elevations, with some near populated areas, and may result in a temporary reduction in air quality affecting the communities of Oakhurst, Fish Camp, Bass Lake, Ahwahnee and North Fork.

“The project objectives are to remove fuels created during timber harvest, reforestation and fuels reduction,” says Tolmie. “Removal of these fuels provides a benefit by reducing the potential of extreme wildfire in the summer months that would cause damage to private property, wildlife habitat, and watershed.”

Burning will be conducted on burn days as determined by the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, and the Mountain Counties Air Pollution Control District which covers Mariposa County. Burn day determinations are based on atmospheric conditions which provide optimum smoke dispersal.

However, normal diurnal wind changes allow the settling of drift smoke in basins and drainages during the late night and early morning hours. By limiting the number of piles ignited at one time, and by “mopping up” (extinguishing) smoldering piles, fire officials expect that emissions will not reach unacceptable levels.

You can learn more about air quality and daily smoke updates by visiting either www.airnow.gov or www.valleyair.org. Actions will be taken to reduce visibility hazards include monitoring high use roads, and providing traffic control if necessary.

In Prather, the Sierra National Forest (SNF) has announced a prescribed burn on the Teakettle Experimental Forest, which began Monday Oct. 23. This is a research burn located in the Teakettle Experimental Range, says the SNF, where UC Davis has been monitoring the effects of fire over the past 20 years.

On Monday crews began firing operations on the upper unit, to treat the first 66 acres of 168 planned acres.

Fire behavior has been good over the last couple days, meeting the objectives per research requirements, say fire officials. However, the influence from last Friday’s .30 inches of rainfall in the area is starting to wear off as a high pressure/heat wave is drying things out quickly.

Over the next couple of days crews will spend time monitoring and securing the 66 acre upper burn unit. Next week is supposed to bring a cool down of about 10-15 degrees, when crews can resume firing operations on the remaining 102 acre unit.

Three lightning-caused fires have burned a total of 74 acres

SNF fire managers report that a lightning-caused wildfire on Thursday, Aug. 3, near Crown Rock of the John Muir Wilderness has increased this week due to warmer and dryer temperatures. Currently it is approximately 60 acres in size.

“The Crown fire is spreading mostly through ground fuels in this remote part of the Wilderness,” states District Ranger Ray Porter. The current approach is to manage this fire for resource benefit and to limit firefighter exposure and risk.

The containment strategy will utilize existing trails and natural barriers which will keep the fire within the planned area. Managed, natural application of fire in this area will decrease heavy dead and downed materials on the forest floor and promote a healthy and resilient forest.”

Crown fire Incident Commander Brian Vasquez says this strategy, combined with the current low intensity fire behavior, is important to a healthy forest and will provide our firefighters the highest probability of safety and a successfully managed fire.

Two additional lightning-caused wildfires from late August have also flared up over this past week due to warmer and dryer temperatures: the Cow Fire at 12 acres and the Rogers Fire which is holding at 2 acres. Both fires are burning with low intensity and at a minimal rate of spread.

Smoke impacts to lower elevations should be minimal however, drift smoke to the east may impact the Inyo National Forest and surrounding communities.

Visitors can learn more about air quality and smoke by visiting either www.airnow.gov or www.valleyair.org

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