Pictured: A view of the Hodgdon Burn from Crane Flat. (Photo courtesy NPS)/
Prescribed fires are here to stay
Members of the public became concerned this week when they discovered that Yosemite was planning a prescribed burn in the park (see this week’s Letters to the Editor).
With warm weather and winds, some Mono County residents believed the fire risks were too high to purposely start a burn. A number of letters were sent to Yosemite’s Fire Education and Information Manager Gary Wuchner, asking why the park chose this late date for a prescribed burn.
Local Mammoth Lakes Fire Marshal, Thom Heller explained that a standard prescription must be met for any agency to go forward with a prescribed burn. Data regarding winds, weather, and other conditions is input, and the outcome determines whether or not a burn will be allowed.
“I understand people’s concerns,” Heller said, “especially since we are into summer now.”
However, Heller pointed out that after 100 years of not burning, the public was going to need to get used to more and more burns of this nature.
“We are playing catch up in heavily stocked areas,” he said. “[Burns] will be more prevalent in upcoming years because fire achieves the goals agencies need to obtain.”
Heller pointed out that locally our air quality is the poorest in the winter, making it unrealistic to burn in those months if agencies want to stay within air regulations. Plus, burning in the winter would not achieve the soil nutrient goals that agencies strive for when implementing a prescribed burn.
Heller said, “people get upset when fires get away from prescribed burns regardless of the time of year,” adding that it was not more dangerous to implement a prescribed burn now than at other times of the year as long as the standard prescription was being met.
An update on June 19 at http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/current_fire.htm stated that the Hodgdon Prescribed Burn was still moving forward and would begin ignition that day.
“Fuel moistures and other fire factors, within Hodgdon Meadow burn unit, have reached optimal levels to successfully complete the 234 acre project,” the web report said. The project area is near the Big Oak Flat entrance station, campground and community of Hodgdon Meadows.
On Tuesday night, June 20, Wuchner sent the following update on the burn:
“From the Hodgdon Burn Boss:
Total acres to date: 204; Total burned 06/19/2012: 70 acres; Total burned 06/20/2012: 134 acres; Total acres left to burn on 06/21/2012: 30 acres.”
Completion was expected by June 21.