YOSEMITE — Yosemite National Park fire managers began a 148-acre prescribed fire yesterday in the Mariposa Grove. Ignition will take approximately two to three days with an additional seven to fourteen days of active burn down.
Smoke will be present during the prescribed fire and in the Wawona area. Fire managers have been 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. A smoke management plan has been submitted to the MCAPCD, and a burn permit has been issued. A smoke monitor has been 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 (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. 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 1-3 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.