Don't be too alarmed if you see smoke wafting above the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park later this week. Park officials are planning a prescribed burn in that part of the park to reduce a buildup of fuels.
The burn is planned for Wednesday, but is contingent on favorable burning conditions. Park officials say favorable weather is expected throughout the week, which will allow for optimal smoke dispersion. The total prescribed fire area will include 846 acres and is estimated to take several days to one week to complete. This will be the first prescribed fire of the 2012 fire season.
The prescribed fire will take place in the vicinity of the 2007 lighting-caused fire, known as the Jack Fire. The fire is designed to reduce hazardous fuels in the Wawona Wildland Urban Interface area. Burning this segment will form a barrier to the community of Wawona from the spread of unwanted wildfire approaching from Turner Ridge to the north and from the South Fork Merced River drainage to the northwest. This project ties together multiple and historical research, natural and prescribed fires, and mechanical thinning.
Another objective for this project is to conduct ecosystem restoration by applying fire to landscape adapted to thrive in fire conditions. Fire is a natural process that plays an integral role in shaping the Yosemite landscape. Densities of shade tolerant tree species, such as white fir and incense cedar, and forest litter and duff have accumulated to unnatural levels in the absence of fire. Through the application of fire, a more natural vegetation composition on the forest floor can flourish.
Smoke from the fire may be visible throughout the park, but may be more evident in the Wawona area and the southern portion of the park. Additionally, fire equipment and fire crews will be present in the area of the fire and along roadways. Visitors and park employees are urged to drive slowly and with caution through the burn area.
Yosemite Fire Managers are working with Mariposa County and Tuolumne County, San Joaquin Valley, and Great Basin Air Pollution Control Districts (APCDs), in order to time the burn during the most favorable weather conditions that will facilitate good air quality and disperse smoke impacts. A burn permit has been issued to the park by the Mariposa County APCD and air quality measuring devices are beings staged in the surrounding communities.