SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. April 11, 2019 – Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are releasing their 2018 fire year summary and 2019 prescribed burn and mechanical treatments to the public. Mechanical fuels treatments, prescribed burns, lightning-caused wildfires managed for multiple objectives, and full-suppression strategies and tactics all play a role in protecting these highly valued resources and assets. The use of a variety of wildland fire management tools makes wildfire management efforts much more safe and cost effective.
In 2018 the parks had thirty wildfires in the parks, nine human-caused and twenty-one lightning-caused. While this continues the trend that most fires in these parks are natural ignitions, low-elevation areas may go into fire restrictions again this year in order to reduce the risk from unwanted human-caused fires. Firefighters and fire personnel additionally responded to five mutual-aid fire requests on neighboring lands and supported seventy-three in-park search-and-rescues. Furthermore, fire staff traveled to seventy off-park fires / incidents in 2018
Over 2,000 acres were either treated by prescribed burns, mechanical methods or wildfires that were managed for multiple objectives. Fires that needed direct suppression due to threats to parks resources or assets accounted for less than 100 acres. The 1,777-acre Eden Fire and the nearly 100-acre Dennison Fire were two late season lightning-caused fires that restored natural fire to areas with no known fire history.
“There is no single solution for managing fire in the Sierra Nevada,” shared John Ziegler, acting parks fire management officer, this week. “It’s by working with multiple federal, state, and local agencies, along with the public’s support, that we can reduce negative impacts and long-term risk, while continuing to make these special places more sustainable for future generations.”
Both the Eden and Dennison Fires should be seen as a success story for the health and well-being of our public lands. By not taking any direct suppression action on these fires, the parks did not put any on the ground firefighters in harm’s way, created contemporary fire history in an area that has over a century of extreme fuel loading, and greatly reduced costs and risks associated with fully suppressing all fires, all the time. Compared to the 2018 Horse Creek Fire in the same area, Mineral King Valley, the Eden Fire cost about 1/10th the amount and covered an area 52 times the size.
Each year, managers prepare an Annual Fuels Treatment Plan that lists all the approved prescribed burns and mechanical fuel reduction projects that will help the parks accomplish goals. In all, there are five planned projects totaling over 1,600 acres. More than 100 acres will be focused on mechanical thinning treatments to reduce hazardous fuel build up around Ash Mountain, Grant Grove, and the Lodgepole /Wuksachi areas.
Depending on weather and fuel conditions, the earliest projects planned for this year are the 485-acre Sherman Prescribed Burn and the 25-acre Ash Mountain Mechanical and Prescribed Burn. Additionally the parks are planning for the 560-acre Park Ridge Prescribed Burn and the 461-acre Cedar Central Prescribed Burn this spring. However, some projects may take place this fall if conditions are not conducive or in prescription as desired for this spring.
A full list of the planned projects can be seen by visiting http://go.nps.gov/sekifireplans.
If you are visiting the parks, be aware that fire and smoke can be present at any time. Since the execution of burns depends on air quality, local fire activity, fuel moisture, and weather, the times and dates listed on the website are estimates only.
About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ Fire Management Program
For over fifty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.
Photo Credit: The low-intensity Eden Fire burns through a giant sequoia grove, restoring natural and beneficial fire to the landscape.2018 Eden Fire – Sequoia National Park – Photo: NPS / PStevko