When that billow of smoke appears on the Three Rivers skyline in the next week or two, don’t panic. It’s just fire crews in Sequoia National Park conducting the annual fuel-reduction project at Ash Mountain.
Each year, Sequoia-Kings Canyon’s fire management program burns the grasses and other encroaching vegetation along the Generals Highway between the Sequoia entrance station and the Foothills Visitor Center at Ash Mountain. This year, the prescribed burning will take place sometime between Sunday, May 31, and Wednesday, June 10, with the final determination of ignition being the weather and air quality conditions.
The burn is expected to encompass 10 acres. Mechanical methods will clear 15 additional acres.
This mission to create defensible space will move up in elevation for another phase that includes the Hospital Rock Picnic Area, where wildland fires have been sparked in the past. In recent years, this area also gets the mixed grasses and brush burned and cleared as well as the barbecue grills closed down and covered at each picnic site until fire season has passed. These methods have significantly reduced the fire danger in this area.
When the project starts, updates will be posted at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/unit/797/.
Next on Sequoia’s prescribed fire agenda is a 75-acre burn in the Sunset Rock area of Giant Forest. That burn is weather and air quality dependent.
Mike Theune, fire education specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the vegetation at 6,000 feet still contains a high moisture content so when and if Ash Mountain firefighters are given the green light, the Sunset Rock burn won’t be in volatile conditions like the parched foothills. He also said that in areas that have been subject to controlled burns in the past there is less tree mortality.