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Prescribed Fire Planned For Highway 41 Near Wawona

YOSEMITE — Yosemite National Park fire managers are planning a prescribed fire for the week of June 12, weather conditions permitting, in the Unit 26 Soupbowl B project area along Highway 41 south of Wawona.

The plan is to burn 2-3 segments ranging from 103 acres to 174 acres. The amount of acres to be considered is based on air quality the day of planned ignition.

The primary objective of the project is to reduce hazardous vegetation (fuel) around the Wildland Urban Interface community of Wawona.

This project is also intended to help protect park infrastructure at the South Entrance station and reduce the threat of wildfires originating along Highway 41 that could adversely impact the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. It would help create a continuous fuel break between the community of Wawona and the south entrance of the park linking other burn areas, mechanical thinning projects, and previous prescribed fires.

Another objective of the Soupbowl prescribed fire is ecosystem restoration. Over 100 years ago, aggressive fire suppression policies resulted in fire exclusion across conifer forests throughout the Sierra Nevada Range, say Yosemite park officials.

“Applying fire under prescribed conditions mimics the frequent, low intensity lightning caused fires that occurred in the Sierras prior to the exclusion of fire.

“Historically, natural fires burned an average of 16,000 acres annually in Yosemite and played an integral role in shaping Yosemite’s ecosystems. In the absence of frequent fire, unnatural levels of forest fuel have accumulated which has put many of Yosemite’s natural and cultural values at risk. As climate and forest dynamics change, these values become increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire.”

Park employees, community members, and visitors can expect to see crews from various federal and state agencies working along the Highway 41 corridor doing prescribed fire preparation and burn operations. Traffic control will be in place during burn operations and delays are expected to be short. Motorists are asked to please use caution when entering and exiting for firefighter safety.

Smoke will be present during the prescribed fire and in the Wawona area. Fire managers are working with the Mariposa County Air Pollution District (MCAPCD) to time the project to coincide with favorable weather that will facilitate good air quality, and disperse smoke into the atmosphere away from the community.

Prior to ignition, smoke monitoring equipment will be installed in the community and a burn permit will be issued to the park by MCAPCD. Community members who are sensitive to smoke may want to close their windows and doors and/or consider leaving the area during active ignition of the project in order to reduce their exposure.

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