YOSEMITE — Yosemite National Park fire managers are planning a 137 acre Mariposa Grove prescribed fire in the coming weeks, weather and air quality permitting. According to Yosemite Fire Information, ignition will take approximately two to three days with an additional seven to 14 days of active burn down.
Smoke will be present during the prescribed fire and in the Wawona area. Fire managers are working with the Mariposa County Air Pollution Control District (MCAPCD) to time the project to coincide with favorable weather and smoke dispersion conditions. Smoke, affecting health, is always a consideration in the decision to schedule prescribed fires, say authorities. A smoke management plan has been submitted to the MCAPCD, and a burn permit has been issued. A smoke monitor will be placed in nearby communities to monitor smoke.
Historically, natural fire burned an average of 16,000 acres annually in Yosemite National Park and played an integral role in shaping Yosemite’s ecosystem. Yosemite’s Fire Management Program works to balance the protection of life, property, and natural and cultural resources with the restoration of fire as a natural process. Due to decades of fire suppression by actively putting out any fire that started, many areas have become overgrown, unhealthy, and increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire.
The Mariposa Grove project is near the top of the Grove from Wawona Point to the south. Fire managers want to take advantage of the Mariposa Grove closure to conduct the project, they say. The Grove is closed to the public because of a major restoration project. Burning at this time will minimize impacts to public use.
Burning in the Mariposa Grove is a continuous process; the targeted areas have had between one and three prescribed fires in the past 30 years, and continued burning is required to maintain healthy forest conditions. Fire produces the optimum conditions for Giant Sequoia reproduction and propagation. Fire not only removes the accumulated layers of dead woody debris exposing nutrient rich mineral soil, but dries the cones allowing the seeds to shed. In addition, fire creates holes in the forest canopy, while eliminating shade tolerate competition.
Park employees, community members, and visitors can expect to see fire personnel from various federal and state agencies conducting burning operations during the Mariposa Grove prescribed fire.